Fed Mines Big Data for Real-Time Clues on Spending and Payrolls

Federal Reserve officials deployed an experimental new tool as they scrambled to assess the harm done by storms hammering the U.S. last year: a trove of big data that gave them real-time answers on spending they’d normally have to wait on for weeks.

Instead of guesswork and monthly retail sales readings, they used card swipe information from First Data Corp., a global payment technology company, to get a picture within three days of what hurricanes Harvey and Irma had done to the economies of Houston and Miami. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Spending at stores and restaurants in Miami and Tampa dried up almost completely, while in Houston the decline was 75 percent from normal spending levels.

Author: Craig Torres

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