The elusive boost from cheap oil
The plunge in oil prices since the middle of 2014 has not translated into a dramatic boost for consumer spending, which has continued to grow moderately. This has been particularly surprising since the sharp drop should free up income for households to use toward other purchases. Lessons from an empirical model of learning suggest that the weak response may reflect that consumers initially viewed cheaper oil as a temporary condition. If oil prices remain low, consumer perceptions could change, which would boost spending.
Fueling road spending with federal stimulus
Highway spending in the United States between 2008 and 2011 was flat, despite the serious need for improvements and the big boost to state highway funds from the Recovery Act of 2009. A comparison of how much different states received and spent shows that these federal grants actually boosted highway spending substantially. However, this was offset by pressures to reduce state highway spending due to plummeting tax revenues. In fact, analysis suggests national highway spending would have fallen roughly 20% over this period without federal highway grants from the Recovery Act.
Who cares about volatility? A tale of two exchange-rate systems.
On an international level, countries often engage in vigorous debate about which type of exchange-rate system to follow ? fixed or flexible? A question central to that debate is: Does one particular exchange-rate system promote a more stable economic environment?
Productivity and the dollar
This paper investigates the role of shocks to U.S. productivity and demand in driving the real value of the dollar, and the dynamics of the U.S. trade balance. Using sign restrictions based on robust predictions by standard theory, we identify shocks that increase domestic labor productivity and output in manufacturing (our measure of U.S. tradables), relative to an aggregate of other industrial countries including the rest of the G7, while driving down (up in the case of demand) the relative price of tradables (in accord to Harrod-Balassa-Samuelson effects). Consistent with previous results ...
Highway grants: roads to prosperity?
Federal highway grants to states appear to boost economic activity in the short and medium term. The short-term effects appear to be due largely to increases in aggregate demand. Medium-term effects apparently reflect the increased productive capacity brought by improved roads. Overall, each dollar of federal highway grants received by a state raises that state?s annual economic output by at least two dollars, a relatively large multiplier.
Has the Wage Phillips Curve Gone Dormant?
Although the labor market has steadily strengthened, wage growth has remained slow in recent years. This raises the question of whether the wage Phillips curve?the traditional relationship between labor market slack and wage growth?has weakened. Estimating a causal link from slack to wage growth using national data is difficult. However, using city-level data over the past 25 years shows that the cross-city relationship has weakened since the Great Recession. Explanations consistent with this timing suggest that the Phillips curve may return to a steeper curve in the future.
International risk-sharing and the transmission of productivity shocks
A central puzzle in international finance is that real exchange rates are volatile and, in stark contradiction to efficient risk-sharing, negatively correlated with relative consumptions across countries. This paper shows that a model with incomplete markets and a low price elasticity of imports can account for these properties of real exchange rates. The low price elasticity stems from introducing distribution services, which drive a wedge between producer and consumer prices and lowers the impact of terms-of-trade changes on optimal agents' decisions. In the authors' model, two very ...
Are Workers Losing to Robots?
The portion of national income that goes to workers, known as the labor share, has fallen substantially over the past 20 years. Even with strong employment growth in recent years, the labor share has remained at historically low levels. Automation has been an important driving factor. While it has increased labor productivity, the threat of automation has also weakened workers? bargaining power in wage negotiations and led to stagnant wage growth. Analysis suggests that automation contributed substantially to the decline in the labor share.
The Road of Federal Infrastructure Spending Passes Through the States
Because federal infrastructure spending largely takes the form of grants to state governments, the macroeconomic impact of such packages depends on the share of federal grants that “passes through” to actual infrastructure spending done by states. A low degree of pass-through would tend to mute the economic impact from federal grants, reflecting a crowd-out effect on state spending. We first revisit Knight’s (2002) influential finding of near-zero pass-through (perfect crowd out) of federal highway grants. That result is found to be specification-sensitive and is reversed completely in ...