Why Is Current Unemployment So Low?


Andreas Hornstein

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2020-05 | February 1, 2020

Current unemployment, as of 2019Q4, is so low not because of unusually high job finding rates out of unemployment, but because of unusually low entry rates into unemployment. The unusually low entry rates, both from employment and from out of the labor force, reflect a long-run downward trend, and have lowered the unemployment rate trend over the recent decade. In fact, the difference between the current unemployment rate and unemployment rates at the two previous cyclical peaks in 2000 and 2007 is more than fully accounted for by the decline in its trend. This suggests that the current low unemployment rate does not indicate a labor market that is tighter than in 2000 or 2007.

Article Citation

Hornstein, Andreas, and Marianna Kudlyak. 2020. “Why Is Current Unemployment So Low?,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2020-05. Available at https://doi.org/10.24148/wp2020-05

About the Author
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Marianna Kudlyak is a research advisor in the Economic Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Learn more about Marianna Kudlyak