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The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco had hoped to host its Annual Conference on Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy on Friday, March 27, 2020. The conference brings together academic and central bank economists, financial market practitioners, and policymakers. Papers focus on macroeconomics broadly defined. Out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 virus, this year’s conference has been canceled, but we are sharing the participant list and papers, which we hope will be of interest. Read more
John Fernald, senior research advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, stated his views on the current economy and the outlook as of March 5, 2020.
Unemployment is at a 50-year low. The low rate is not from an unusually high job-finding rate out of unemployment but, rather, an unusually low rate at which people enter unemployment. The low entry rate reflects a long-run downward trend likely due to population aging, better job matches, and other structural factors. These developments lowered the long-run unemployment rate trend. At the end of 2019, the unemployment rate was below the trend but no more so than in previous business cycle peaks, indicating that the labor market is no tighter.
How do major pandemics affect economic activity in the medium to longer term? Is it consistent with what economic theory prescribes? Since these are rare events, historical evidence over many centuries is required. We study rates of return on assets using a dataset stretching back to the 14th century, focusing on 12 major pandemics where more than 100,000 people died. In addition, we include major armed conflicts resulting in a similarly large death toll. Significant macroeconomic after-effects of the pandemics persist for about 40 years, with real rates of return substantially depressed. In contrast, we find that wars have no such effect, indeed the opposite. This is consistent with the destruction of capital that happens in wars, but not in pandemics. Using more sparse data, we find real wages somewhat elevated following pandemics. The findings are consistent with pandemics inducing labor scarcity and/or a shift to greater precautionary savings.
The China Cyclical Activity Tracker, China CAT, is an alternative measure of China’s economic growth based on research in Fernald, Hsu, and Spiegel (2019).
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.