What Has Driven the Recent Increase in Retirements?
During the pandemic, the share of retirees in the U.S. population rose much faster than its normal pace. Typically, an increase in this share is driven by more people transitioning from employment to retirement. However, we show that the recent increase was instead driven by fewer people transitioning from retirement back into employment, likely due to pandemic-related health risks. More retirees may rejoin the workforce as these health risks fade, but the retirement share is unlikely to return to a normal level for some time.
To Improve the Accuracy of GDP Growth Forecasts, Add Financial Market Conditions
More timely data on current macroeconomic conditions can reduce uncertainty about forecasts, helping policymakers mitigate the risk of extreme economic outcomes. We find that incorporating financial market conditions along with current macroeconomic conditions improves the forecast accuracy of future GDP growth. Forecasts based only on current macroeconomic conditions eventually converge to those incorporating financial market conditions, lending further support to this approach.
When Normalizing Monetary Policy, the Order of Operations Matters
As economic conditions in the United States continue to improve, the FOMC may consider normalizing monetary policy. Whether the FOMC reduces the balance sheet before raising the federal funds rate (or vice versa) may affect the shape of the yield curve, with consequences for financial institutions. Drawing lessons from the previous normalization in 2015–19, we conclude that normalizing the balance sheet before raising the funds rate might forestall yield curve inversion and, in turn, support economic stability.
Safe-Haven Performance in the Age of Bitcoin
In past periods of financial stress, investors seeking “safe havens” have shifted toward government bonds and gold. In recent years, some have questioned whether Bitcoin could also serve as a safe haven. We compare the behavior of government bonds, gold, and Bitcoin from January 1995 through February 2020 and find that the 10-year Treasury note behaved like a safe haven consistently, gold occasionally, and Bitcoin never. During March 2020, however, none of the assets can be classified with confidence as a safe haven.
COVID-19 Challenges State and Local Government Finances
As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy, state and local governments will not be immune from the pain. In the near term, governments face liquidity challenges, as many tax deadlines have been postponed. In the longer term, governments will experience large revenue declines that may lead to significant budget cuts.
As Manufacturing Weakens, Consumers Pull Back
The United States has faced two recent downturns in manufacturing: one from 2014 to 2015 and one that has been ongoing since 2018. We examine consumption growth at the state level to see how consumers have responded to the current downturn relative to the last. We find that during the current downturn, changes in consumption growth at the state level have been negatively correlated with the state?s share of workers in manufacturing. In contrast, we find the opposite relationship during the 2014?15 downturn.
KC Fed LMCI Implies the Labor Market Is Closer to a Full Recovery than the Unemployment Rate Alone Suggests
By consolidating information from a broad range of labor market variables, the Kansas City Fed Labor Market Conditions Indicators (LMCI) provide a consistent gauge of labor market tightness. Adjusting the unemployment rate to incorporate information from the LMCI suggests the labor market is closer to a full recovery than the unemployment rate alone implies.
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.
Assessing the Risk of Extreme Unemployment Outcomes
Although the unemployment rate is at a historically low level, many policymakers are nevertheless watching projections for the future unemployment rate closely to evaluate the risk of extreme outcomes. We assess the probabilities of extreme outcomes in the near and medium term and find that the risk of unexpectedly high unemployment three years in the future has declined from its Great Recession peak and remained low over the past three years.
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.