COVID-19 Poses Risks for State and Local Public Pensions
If the coronavirus pandemic leads to a protracted recession, public pension funding could weaken further in the years to come. During the 2001 and 2007–09 recessions, investment returns failed to reach pension plans’ longer-term assumed returns, and shortfalls in state and local government budgets led some employers to temporarily reduce contributions. If pension funding falls during the current crisis, state and local governments may choose to adjust plan structures as they did after the Great Recession.
Inflation Expectations Limit the Power of Negative Interest Rates
Both the federal funds rate and longer-run yields have dropped to near zero, renewing discussion of negative interest rate policy. Although negative rates would allow for additional cuts in the United States, negative policy rates in line with what other countries have implemented would not be able to achieve the nominal rate reduction of previous easing cycles. Moreover, inflation expectations remained flat or fell after negative rates were introduced in most countries, limiting the expansionary power of these additional rate cuts.
Policymakers Have Options for Additional Accommodation: Forward Guidance and Yield Curve Control
With the federal funds rate near zero, policymakers are evaluating options for providing additional monetary policy accommodation, including a tool known as yield curve control. We find that despite low nominal Treasury yields, some scope for additional accommodation remains should policymakers deem it appropriate. However, we argue that forward guidance about future interest rates could deliver much, though not all, of the accommodation of yield curve control.
The G-Spread Suggests Federal Reserve Restored Calm to Treasury Markets
In March, the coronavirus pandemic led to a sell-off in Treasury markets and a subsequent period of financial stress. I use one measure of Treasury market pressure, the G-spread, to gauge how liquidity in Treasury markets changed in response to the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s interventions. I find that timely Federal Reserve interventions restored calm to the Treasury market, and that these interventions stand out in speed and scale compared with interventions in the early days of the 2007–08 financial crisis.
Women Are Driving the Recent Recovery in Prime-Age Labor Force Participation
The labor force participation rate of prime-age individuals (age 25 to 54) in the United States declined dramatically during and after the Great Recession. While the rate remains below its pre-recession level, it has been increasing steadily since 2015. We examine how different demographic groups have contributed to this rebound and find that college-educated women have made the largest contribution to the recent recovery in the prime-age labor force participation rate.
COVID-19 Stuns U.S. and Tenth District Economies, but Both Show Signs of Stabilization
COVID-19 and attempts to slow its spread have led to a decline in economic activity unprecedented in both severity and speed. Although every part of the United States experienced dramatic decreases in activity, states in the Tenth Federal Reserve District, with lower COVID-19 cases as a percentage of the population, have fared slightly better. More recently, national and regional measures of business and consumer activity have improved but remain well below pre-pandemic levels.
Coronavirus Dampens China’s First-Quarter GDP
The novel coronavirus spread in China long before other countries, making China a potential early signal of the virus’s economic effects. Using a range of statistical models, we estimate that the coronavirus outbreak may have reduced China’s real GDP by an annualized rate of 32 percent, leading year-over-year growth to decline from 6 percent in 2019:Q4 to −3.8 percent in 2020:Q1.
Drilling Productivity in the United States: What Lies Beneath
We construct new measures of drilling productivity and find that productivity increased sixfold from the mid-2000s to early 2017. Gains in below-ground efficiency?the number of barrels produced per foot of drilled wells?have largely driven this increase in overall productivity. The large oil price declines during the Great Recession and from 2014 to 2016 also played a role. However, further large increases in productivity are unlikely absent additional improvements in technology or a subsequent large downturn in oil prices.
Women Take a Bigger Hit in the First Wave of Job Losses due to COVID-19
The temporary shutdown orders and social distancing measures taken to fight the COVID-19 outbreak have caused substantial job losses in the United States. Women, especially those without a college degree, have taken a bigger hit in the first wave of job losses. This imbalance could lead to prolonged damage to women’s employment and labor market attachment if job losses deepen and persist in the coming months.
Understanding the Recent Rise in Municipal Bond Yields
In late March, investors sold off municipal bonds at a rapid pace, depressing municipal bond prices and driving up their yields relative to U.S. Treasuries. We find that this initial investor run on the municipal bond market was likely due to increased liquidity demand rather than credit concerns, making the Federal Reserve’s early actions to relieve liquidity stress effective. Going forward, however, municipal bond prices will likely reflect increased credit concerns.