It has been said that trying to gauge the health of the economy is like driving with only the rearview mirror as a guide. The data that are available to economists come out with a lag—sometimes a week, sometimes several months after the fact. While looking at the recent past is informative, it doesn’t quite tell you where you are right now, or where you’re truly headed.
To get the most current read on the economy, the Philadelphia Fed established the Real-Time Data Research Center. Along with forecasts and economic research, the center collects and makes available the most up-to-date economic data. While its primary audience is economists and policymakers, the site is useful for anyone curious about the state of the economy. Of particular interest is the center’s real-time business conditions index, which is updated every few days as new data are released.