FRBSF Economic Letters

Economic analysis for a general audience

Regis Barnichon and Christian Matthes


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.

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Analysis of current economic developments and the outlook

SF Fed Forecast Preview

The SF Fed Forecast Preview is an advance release of the monthly SF Fed FedViews publication. Our forecasts of GDP, inflation, and unemployment will usually be released will usually be released on the second Tuesday of each month.

Western Economic Developments

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Working Papers

The latest in economic research

Michael D. Bauer and Glenn D. Rudebusch

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.

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