Economic Letter

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

  • Falling College Wage Premiums by Race and Ethnicity


    Leila Bengali, Marcus Sander, Robert G. Valletta, and Cindy Zhao

    Workers with a college degree typically earn substantially more than workers with less education. This so-called college wage premium increased for several decades, but it has been flat to down in recent years and declined notably since the pandemic. Analysis indicates that this reflects an acceleration of wage gains for high school graduates rather than a slowdown for college graduates. This pattern is most evident for workers in racial and ethnic groups other than White, possibly reflecting an unusually tight labor market that may have altered their college attendance decisions.

  • The Evolution of Disagreement in the Dot Plot


    Andrew Foerster and Zinnia Martinez

    The Summary of Economic Projections offers important insights into the views of Federal Open Market Committee participants. The summary’s “dot plot” charts each participant’s assessment of the appropriate path for monetary policy given their economic outlook. A new index measuring the level of disagreement indicated by the dots shows that disagreement fell during the 2010s expansion, was nearly nonexistent early in the pandemic, and has been increasing recently. Policy disagreement is correlated with disagreement about future inflation, but factors unrelated to disagreement about the outlook also play a large role.

  • How Far Is Labor Force Participation from Its Trend?


    Andreas Hornstein, Marianna Kudlyak, Brigid Meisenbacher, and David A. Ramachandran

    Labor force participation in the United States has dropped a percentage point since the pandemic began. Analyzing how participation has evolved for various groups of the population suggests that more than two-thirds of this decline has been due to persistent “trend” factors. The remainder is due to temporary economic conditions, or “cyclical” factors. Estimates project that trend factors—driven largely by population aging—could push labor participation down an additional percentage point over the next decade.

  • Where Is Shelter Inflation Headed?


    Augustus Kmetz, Schuyler Louie, and John Mondragon

    Shelter inflation has remained high even as other components of inflation have fallen. However, various market indicators, including house prices and rents, suggest that the housing market has slowed significantly with the rise in interest rates. Forecasting models that combine several measures of local shelter and rent inflation can help explain how recent trends might affect the path of future shelter inflation. The models indicate that shelter inflation is likely to slow significantly over the next 18 months, consistent with the evolving effects of interest rate hikes on housing markets.

  • Will a Cooler Labor Market Slow Supercore Inflation?


    Sylvain Leduc, Daniel J. Wilson, and Cindy Zhao

    Given steady declines in price inflation for core goods and expectations that rent inflation will moderate over time, the outlook for nonhousing core services—or “supercore”—inflation has grown in importance. State-level data document a typically weak relationship between this indicator and unemployment rates, highlighting the stickiness of supercore inflation. The data show that its sensitivity to labor markets strengthened early in the pandemic recovery in connection with strong demand for service workers. However, it’s uncertain whether this sensitivity will remain heightened or return to its persistent pre-pandemic weakness.

  • Reducing Inflation along a Nonlinear Phillips Curve


    Erin E. Crust, Kevin J. Lansing, Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau

    Inflation has climbed since 2021, as the labor market has tightened. Two historical data relationships can account for elevated inflation over the past two years: the Beveridge curve, which relates job vacancies and unemployment rates over the business cycle, and a nonlinear version of the Phillips curve, which links inflation to labor market slack. Combining estimates of the two curves implies that inflation can fall in conjunction with a “soft landing” for the economy if labor market easing is achieved mainly by reducing job vacancies rather than increasing unemployment.

  • Why Immigration Is an Urban Phenomenon


    Joan Monras

    Immigration is fundamentally an urban phenomenon. Both in the United States and elsewhere, immigrants settle primarily in cities—especially high-wage, high cost-of-living cities. The most likely reason is that immigrants often send a significant share of their income back to their origin country. As a result, they value a city’s high wages and are less discouraged by the high living costs than native-born workers. Migration policies can reinforce this urban concentration pattern.

  • How Long Do Rising Temperatures Affect Economic Growth?


    Gregory Casey, Stephie Fried, and Ethan Goode

    How might rising temperatures around the world affect the growth rate of GDP per person? Examining data across countries over the past half-century shows that a change in temperature affects GDP growth, but only temporarily. Combining estimates from past data with a simple growth model can help project the impacts of future higher temperatures on GDP per person by country. These projections suggest that total global losses in output per person could be substantial, though smaller than if a given change in temperature had a permanent effect on GDP growth.

  • Global Supply Chain Pressures and U.S. Inflation


    Zheng Liu and Thuy Lan Nguyen

    Global supply chain disruptions following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the rapid rise in U.S. inflation over the past two years. Evidence suggests that supply chain pressures pushed up the cost of inputs for goods production and the public’s expectations of higher future prices. These factors accounted for about 60% of the surge in U.S. inflation beginning in early 2021. Supply chain pressures began easing substantially in mid-2022, contributing to the slowdown in inflation.

  • How Much Do Labor Costs Drive Inflation?


    Adam Hale Shapiro

    Tight labor markets have raised concerns about the role of labor costs in persistently high inflation readings. Policymakers are paying particular attention to nonhousing services inflation, which is considered most closely linked to wages. Analysis shows that higher labor costs are passed along to customers in the form of higher nonhousing services prices, however the effect on overall inflation is very small. Labor-cost growth has no meaningful effect on goods or housing services inflation. Overall, labor-cost growth is responsible for only about 0.1 percentage point of recent core PCE inflation.