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Charley's Swipe File #47

Recession indicators are available for more than 40 countries and regions. Here's how to display them in your Excel charts of business performance.

by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports

Charley's Swipe File #47No matter what your company does, itís probably affected by the health of the economy. So you can help your readers better understand your companyís performance when you add recession indicators to your charts.

Monthly recession indicators are easily available for more than 40 countries and regions in the world. Iíve listed links to them in the Sources sheet of the CharleyFile_047 workbooks.

The Charting Strategy

We use a column plot to generate the light brown band that indicates a recession. For each month with a recession, we plot a column that extends from the bottom of the chart to its top. Because we adjust the width of the columns so thereís no space between them, the recession area looks like one solid column.

By default, Excel adds a space in the plot area between the top and bottom of all plotsÖas with the line plot. So to force Excel to extend the column plot from the top to the bottom, we take three steps.

First, we move the column plot to the secondary axis. Second, we set the minimum value of the secondary vertical axis to be zero and the maximum value to be 1. And third, we arrange our data so that recessions have a value of 1 and non-recessions have a value of zero. (This final step is easy to take because thatís how the FRB indicates recessions in the first place.)

Because both line and column plots can display text in their X axes, we use text formulas to show the dates. Particularly, this allows us to use the CHAR(13) function, which inserts a carriage-return character between the month and year in the chart dates.

(Continued in the documentation.)

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