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Gauging the uncertainty of the economic outlook from historical forecasting errors
Participants in meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) regularly produce individual projections of real activity and inflation that are published in summary form. These summaries indicate participants' views about the most likely course for the macroeconomy but, by themselves, are not enough to gauge the full range of possible outcomes -- that is, the uncertainty surrounding the outlook. To this end, FOMC participants will now provide qualitative assessments of how they view the degree of current uncertainty relative to that which prevailed on average in the past. This paper discusses a method for gauging the average magnitude of historical uncertainty using information on the predictive accuracy of a number of private and government forecasters. The results suggest that, if past performance is a reasonable guide to the accuracy of future forecasts, considerable uncertainty surrounds all macroeconomic projections, including those of FOMC participants.
AUTHORS: Reifschneider, David L.; Tulip, Peter
Gauging the Uncertainty of the Economic Outlook Using Historical Forecasting Errors : The Federal Reserve's Approach
Since November 2007, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the U.S. Federal Reserve has regularly published participants? qualitative assessments of the uncertainty attending their individual forecasts of real activity and inflation, expressed relative to that seen on average in the past. The benchmarks used for these historical comparisons are the average root mean squared forecast errors (RMSEs) made by various private and government forecasters over the past twenty years. This paper documents how these benchmarks are constructed and discusses some of their properties. We draw several conclusions. First, if past performance is a reasonable guide to future accuracy, considerable uncertainty surrounds all macroeconomic projections, including those of FOMC participants. Second, different forecasters have similar accuracy. Third, estimates of uncertainty about future real activity and interest rates are now considerably greater than prior to the financial crisis; in contrast, estimates of inflation accuracy have changed little. Finally, fan charts-constructed as plus-or-minus one RMSE intervals about the median FOMC forecast, under the expectation that future projection errors will be unbiased and symmetrically distributed, and that the intervals cover about 70 percent of possible outcomes-provide a reasonable approximation to future uncertainty, especially when viewed in conjunction with the FOMC's qualitative assessments. That said, an assumption of symmetry about the interest rate outlook is problematic if the expected path of the federal funds rate is expected to remain low.
AUTHORS: Tulip, Peter; Reifschneider, David L.
Do minimum wages raise the NAIRU?
A high minimum wage (relative to average wages) raises nominal wage growth and hence inflation. This effect can be offset by extra unemployment; so the minimum wage increases the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment or NAIRU. This effect is clearly discernible and robust to variations in model specification and sample period. It is consistent with international comparisons and the behavior of prices. I estimate that the reduction in the relative level of the minimum wage over the last two decades accounts for a reduction in the NAIRU of about 1 1/2 percentage points. It can also account for the substantial reduction in the NAIRU in the United States relative to continental Europe.
AUTHORS: Tulip, Peter
Has output become more predictable? changes in Greenbook forecast accuracy
Several researchers have recently documented a large reduction in output volatility. In contrast, this paper examines whether output has become more predictable. Using forecasts from the Federal Reserve Greenbooks, I find the evidence is somewhat mixed. Output seems to have become more predictable at short horizons, but not necessarily at longer horizons. The reduction in unpredictability is much less than the reduction in volatility. Associated with this, recent forecasts had little predictive power.
AUTHORS: Tulip, Peter