Serving the public with innovative research and analysis
Thomas M. Mertens, research advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, stated his views on the current economy and the outlook as of August 10, 2017.
The natural rate of unemployment, or u-star, is used by economists and policymakers to help assess the overall state of the labor market. However, the natural rate is not directly observable and must be estimated. A new statistical approach estimates the natural rate over the past 100 years. Results suggest the natural rate has been remarkably stable over history, hovering between 4.5 and 5.5% for long periods, even during the Great Depression. Recent readings on the unemployment rate have been running slightly below the natural rate estimate.
Theory predicts that the equilibrium real interest rate, r*, and the perceived trend in inflation, pi*, are key determinants of the term structure of interest rates. However, term structure analyses generally assume that these endpoints are constant. Instead, we show that allowing for time variation in both r* and pi* is crucial for understanding the empirical dynamics of U.S. Treasury yields and risk pricing. Our evidence reveals that accounting for fluctuations in both r* and pi* substantially increases the accuracy of long-range interest rate forecasts, helps predict excess bond returns, improves estimates of the term premium in long-term interest rates, and captures a substantial share of interest rate variability at low frequencies.
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 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.