10 sites that help you track the economy

If you're worried about the state of the economy, but you want to learn about it for yourself, we have you covered.

How bad is it? The economy, we mean. Are we bouncing into a recovery or continuing to sink? Below is a list of resources that will help you track the economy and determine for yourself if it's as bad as some people say.

Economy resources

Bureau of Economic Analysis If you want to be inundated with data detailing every last element of the economy, the Bureau of Economic Analysis is for you. It has data on national, regional, and state levels. If you want to compare the U.S. with economies around the world, you can do that too. Its trade resource is a great place to learn just how much the U.S. is importing and exporting. Finding a particular indicator can be difficult. But that's mainly due to the site's huge database of information. If you want information on anything related to the economy, you can find it here.

Bureau of Labor Statistics
The BLS provides a lot of information. Don Reisinger/CNET

Bureau of Labor Statistics The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information on some of the major economic indicators, like the Consumer Price Index and employment figures. You won't find every economic indicator, but since the site lists a handful of indexes that matter most to the health of the economy, you should be satisfied. The documents on the BLS site are the full reports presented to Congress each month. They provide outstanding insight into what's really going on in the economy. I highly recommend it.

CBS News Economy The CBS News Economy page helps you learn about taxes, the national debt, and other economic indicators. The page features basic definitions to help you understand more difficult topics. And its use of visual elements like graphs and charts make understanding the economy just a bit easier. (Disclosure: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)

Economagic Economagic offers a wealth of financial data. Whether you want to see how interest rates have changed over the past few decades or you want to determine the amount of credit market debt outstanding, you can. From the simple to the complex, you'll find anything you're looking for on Economagic. The site isn't designed well--it's basically a list of links and numbers--but you'll get over it quickly once you see how much information is at your disposal. Check it out.

Economic Indicators
Economic Indicators will come in handy. Don Reisinger/CNET

Economic Indicators The U.S. government's Economic Indicators site should be your first destination when trying to learn about the economy. The site provides raw data on a variety of topics, including construction, wholesale trade, and international transactions. But beware that the site is designed for folks who are economic experts. So, if you don't know the definition of some of topics or you're unaware of the impact some indicators can have on the economy, you'll need to learn that somewhere else first. Once you do, I think you'll be pleased with the site. It's one of the most informative resources in this roundup.

Economy.com If you're looking for global economic data, Economy.com is a good place to start. The site features information on consumer confidence, credit risk, and international economies. If you want to know about the change in Gross Domestic Product, the total market value of goods and services produced by workers in a particular country, Economy.com has that too. The information is outstanding, but beware that you'll be forced to pay for each document you try to access. And those prices can be steep.

Federal Reserve If you want to learn about U.S. monetary policy, the Federal Reserve site is the best place to go. It includes public statements made by the Federal Reserve over the past few years. It also tells you how the organization determines interest rates. But its most valuable feature is its "Economic Research and Data" tab, which provides you with raw data on mortgage delinquency, family finances, and consumer credit, among others. You can use that to determine if the Federal Reserve is responding well to the current economic climate. It's worth consulting whenever the Federal Reserve makes a statement.

GPO Access Since most news stories don't give you a full picture of the economy, sites like the U.S. government's GPO Access will help you see the whole story (and then some). Whether you want to see the GDP dating back to 1998 or you want to see farm income in the U.S. for a single month, you can do it. I go to GPO Access often to get raw economic data simply because it offers information you can't find elsewhere. Check out GPO Access. If you're serious about tracking the economy, you'll be happy you did.

Recovery.gov
The money is changing hands at Recovery.gov. Don Reisinger/CNET

Recovery.gov Recovery.gov is quickly becoming a go-to spot for information about the economy. Though it was originally started by the Obama administration to provide the public with information on where their stimulus money is going, it also gives you insight into the health of the economy. The site lets you track the bill's investments by state, agency, or industry. The site's best resource is its Budget Accounts page, giving you the exact amounts already given to organizations. It might not tell you about indexes like GDP, but it provides you with a framework that helps you evaluate how the federal funds are affecting different sectors of the economy.

Treasury Department The Treasury Department's Web site is an ideal destination if you want to see real economic data affecting you where it matters most--your wallet. You can see the president's full budget that was sent to Congress to see where your tax dollars are going. You can also check out raw figures on how the financial markets are performing around the world. The site even has documentation on how economic policy over the past few years has affected the fiscal strength of the U.S. and other Western countries. You won't find every economic indicator on the Treasury Department's Web site, but if you want data on topics that have a direct impact on money, this is the site for you.

The top 3

Overwhelmed by all the data? Here's a list of the top three services that will provide you with all the economic info you're looking for:

1. Economic Indicators

2. Bureau of Economic Analysis

3. Economagic

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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