Economic Letter

Brief summaries of SF Fed economic research that explain in reader-friendly terms what our work means for the people we serve.

  • Recent Spike in Immigration and Easing Labor Markets


    Evgeniya Duzhak

    The Congressional Budget Office recently raised its demographic projections for net U.S. immigration. Most of the increase in the projections came from undocumented immigrants. Updating the CBO estimates with recent data points shows a continuing strong inflow of undocumented migrants. Analysis linking the revised estimates for this group to labor market statistics shows that immigrants joining the workforce are likely to have modestly eased labor market tightness.

  • Breakeven Employment Growth


    Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau, Stephanie A. Stewart

    Employment growth has consistently come in above pre-pandemic estimates of the rate needed for unemployment to stay near its long-run natural rate. Even so, unemployment has held steady, which raises the question of whether the “breakeven” employment growth rate has changed. In the short-run, recent surges in immigration and labor force participation have caused the current breakeven employment growth rate to rise as high as 230,000 jobs per month. However, the long-run breakeven employment growth rate appears unchanged, ranging around 70,000 to 90,000 jobs per month.

  • Getting It Right: Meeting Uncertainty with Conditionality


    Mary C. Daly

    We’ve made a lot of progress in bringing down inflation, but there is more to do. We need to exhibit care and be ready to respond to however the economy evolves, balancing policy to protect full employment while restoring price stability. That is the economy we are striving for and working to deliver. The following is adapted from remarks presented by the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club World Affairs of California, in partnership with the San Francisco Press Club, on June 24.

  • Anatomy of the Post-Pandemic Monetary Tightening Cycle


    Andrew Foerster, Zinnia Martinez

    The Federal Reserve tightened monetary policy rapidly between 2021 and 2023. In addition, a weekly proxy federal funds rate shows that markets perceived the policy stance as tightening significantly even in weeks without explicit policy changes. The proxy rate uses financial market data to infer the broad stance of monetary policy as determined by funds rate changes, forward guidance about projected future rates, and balance sheet changes. Results show that the weekly proxy rate can capture changes that reflect both policy tools and market reactions to changing economic news.

  • Why Are Overall Profits Outpacing Financing Costs?


    Anton Bobrov, Carter Davis, Alexandre Sollaci, James Traina

    Since the 1980s, decreasing interest rates have reduced the cost of financing for publicly traded corporations, which in turn has lowered their cost of capital by more than a third. Data show that their profits have likewise declined. At the same time, however, economy-wide corporate profits have increased substantially. Combining these data indicates that the increase in profits has instead gone to privately held companies. This implies that private companies have either increased their market power or their risk.

  • Impact of U.S. Labor Productivity Losses from Extreme Heat


    Gregory Casey, Stephie Fried, Matthew Gibson

    Extreme heat decreases labor productivity in sectors like construction, where much work occurs outdoors. Because construction is an important component of investment, lost productivity today will slow how much capital is built up for future use and thus can have long-lasting impacts on overall economic outcomes. Combining estimates of lost labor productivity due to extreme heat with a model of economic growth suggests that, by the year 2200, extreme heat will reduce the U.S. capital stock by 5.4% and annual consumption by 1.8%.

  • What’s Up with Inflation Expectations in Japan?


    Jens H. E. Christensen, Mark M. Spiegel

    Both actual inflation and inflation expectations increased recently in Japan after decades of being undesirably low. An estimate based on nominal and real Japanese bond yields adjusted for liquidity and other risk premiums confirms that investors’ long-term inflation expectations have also increased. However, projections indicate that further increases are less likely and that long-term expected inflation in Japan is likely to remain anchored below the Bank of Japan’s 2% inflation target.

  • Are Markups Driving the Ups and Downs of Inflation?


    Sylvain Leduc, Huiyu Li, Zheng Liu

    How much impact have price markups for goods and services had on the recent surge and the subsequent decline of inflation? Since 2021, markups have risen substantially in a few industries such as motor vehicles and petroleum. However, aggregate markups—which are more relevant for overall inflation—have generally remained flat, in line with previous economic recoveries over the past three decades. These patterns suggest that markup fluctuations have not been a main driver of the ups and downs of inflation during the post-pandemic recovery.

  • Economic Effects of Tighter Lending by Banks


    Vasco Cúrdia

    Banks tightened the criteria used to approve loans over the past year. Analysis shows that their tighter lending standards can be partially explained by economic conditions that reduce demand for loans and increase their potential risk, such as policy rate increases and a slowing economy. The unexplained part may reflect a restrained credit supply, specifically related to banks being less willing or able to take on risk. What are the potential economic consequences? Past credit supply shocks have had significant long-lasting effects on unemployment but less impact on inflation.

  • How Quickly Do Prices Respond to Monetary Policy?


    Zoë Arnaut, Leila Bengali

    With inflation still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% objective, there is renewed interest in understanding how quickly federal funds rate hikes typically affect inflation. Beyond monetary policy’s well-known lagged effect on the economy overall, new analysis highlights that not all prices respond with the same strength or speed. Results suggest that inflation for the most responsive categories of goods and services has come down substantially from recent highs, likely due in part to more restrictive monetary policy. As a result, the contributions of these categories to overall inflation have fallen.