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Mark Spiegel, vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, stated his views on the current economy and the outlook as of July 11, 2019.
Unemployment is running near its 50-year low, but inflation has not picked up as expected. This suggests that the unemployment rate consistent with stable inflation has fallen. Combining a conventional Phillips curve tradeoff between unemployment and inflation with a noninflationary unemployment rate that can change over time shows that estimates of this unemployment threshold have declined toward 4% in recent years. One possible reason for this decline is improvements in how job matches are made, reflected in unusually favorable job-finding rates for disadvantaged groups.
This paper provides a synthesis of explanations for why the natural rate of interest, r*, has fallen over the last several decades. Demographic factors, declining productivity, slower output growth, and increasing inequality likely all have been important factors. Perhaps less recognized is the role of increasing global demand for safe assets, particularly by foreign investors. Suggestive empirical evidence is presented showing that foreign demand for U.S. safe assets, particularly government-provided assets, has increased dramatically, and may now be playing a much larger role in the determination of U.S. interest rates than in the past. In addition, the buildup before the 2007-2009 financial crisis of quasi-government and privately-supplied safe assets, held by both domestic and foreign investors, rendered the financial system more vulnerable to shocks that adversely affected the perceived degree of “safeness” they provided.
Cyclical and Acyclical Core PCE Inflation divides components of core personal consumption expenditures according to whether they move in tandem with economic cycles or are independent of the state of the overall economy.
PCE Inflation Dispersion statistics present a more detailed summary of the personal consumption expenditure price index (PCEPI), a measure of U.S. inflation. Included are measures of the distribution of price changes across categories and diffusion indices.
The Tech Pulse Index is an index of coincident indicators of activity in the U.S. information technology sector. It can be interpreted as a summary statistic that tracks the health of the tech sector in a timely manner.
Total Factor Productivity (TFP) presents a real-time, quarterly data series for the U.S. business sector, adjusted for variations in factor utilization—labor effort and capital’s workweek.
The Treasury yield premium model decomposes nominal bond yields of various maturities into three components: expectations of the average future short-term interest rate, a term premium, and a model residual.
The Wage Rigidity Meter offers a closer examination of the annual wage changes of U.S. workers that have not changed jobs over the year.
This page provides estimates of weather-adjusted employment change in the United States for the past six months. The estimates are aggregated from county-level estimates of weather’s employment effects, which were derived from a county-level analysis of the short-run effects of unusual weather on employment growth.