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Guide to Economic Indicators.

Guide to Economic Indicators. By Norman Frumkin. Armonk, NY, M.E. Sharpe & Co., 1990. 242 pp. $29.95, cloth; $15.95, paper.

Think of the exercise reference books that abound in the fitness section of any bookstore. The good ones describe the important exercises and sports, detail their usefulness, delineate their limits, and perhaps give some basic advice on how to get started-information that is certainly essential for the exercise novice and, at the very least, a helpful reminder to all but the most seasoned athlete.

Norman Frumkin's Guide to Economic Indicators is very much like the best in that genre. It is not an indepth analysis on the ways we take our economic temperature; it does not, for example, ask whether indicators truly measure what they purport. Nor does it discuss the statistical methods that generate the different indexes. Instead, it is a thumb-through reference guide, a sort of road atlas, simple enough to be used by the undergraduate economics student, but sufficiently detailed to also be of value to a Bureau of Labor Statistics analyst wanting to refresh his or her memory on how one of the measures works.

Forty-two economic indicators are included in the book. Arranged alphabetically, each is discussed in a collection of brief sections that describe what the indicator represents, where and when the data are published (both primary and secondary sources), the scope of the measure's coverage, the methodology and range of sampling or revision error, behavior of the indicator following the first oil price shock of the early 1970's, and the primary sources from which this information was obtained.

There is also a passage detailing the relevance of each indicator for the purposes of economic analysis and policymaking.

This passage is the strength of the book. Building on the informative remarks in the book's introduction, which outline the sources and usefulness of economic indicators in general, concisely illuminating such concepts as annualized and annual movements, seasonality, and measures that use current dollars versus measures that use constant dollars, these specific selections elucidate the full parameters of an indicator's significance. For example, while pointing out the primary import of a rising labor productivity index-more goods at lower prices and a good forecast for generally rising wages-Frumkin notes that high productivity also implies temporary dislocations in parts of the economy as the introduction of labor-saving technology changes or eliminates some jobs, displacing workers who may now have outmoded skills. Such information enhances the analytical sophistication of a person looking at the indicator, and broadens the possible audience of the book to even those with very little economic training.

The Guide to Economic Indicators by no means covers all economic indicators, of course. The most prominent indicators are included, but the book could not be used at a glance for paging through more detailed listings of statistics, such as the Current Labor Statistics section of the Monthly Labor Review.

But this limitation is forgivable, and perhaps unavoidable, and is offset by another of the book's virtues: most of the indicators have tables which give data for the trend of the index from 1975 to 1987. Although, in some cases, the numbers have been revised since the publication of this book, they are all there in one volume. That's nice.

In all, Guide to Economic Indicators is generally clear and accurate in its information. It serves its purpose for being a blueprint of the various indicators, but adds a little more with its thumbnail theoretical frameworks on the different measures, making it instructional as well as useful. This book should find a wide audience. It would make a great reference for a macroeconomics student, or anyone who occasionally is baffled by the sometimes dizzying array of numbers we use to measure the economic health of the U.S. economy.
COPYRIGHT 1990 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kronemer, Alexander
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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