October’s employment report was strong with regard to both jobs and wages, which is good news. But the report also reveals the contradictions in our economy. Good news for Main Street is interpreted as bad news by Wall Street. The challenge for the Federal Reserve, and the standard by which it will be judged, is to ensure this type of news becomes “normal” and not a one month exception that is used to justify hitting the brakes.
Archive for the ‘U.S. Policy’ Category
Ten years ago (September 2005) I launched my website. To mark this anniversary, here are ten postings that I think got it right. Many of them are included in my book, The Economic Crisis: Notes From The Underground (2012).
1. Keynesianism: what it is and why it still matters (September 18, 2005). My first post. What was intellectually unfashionable back then is now in.
2. The Questionable Legacy of Alan Greenspan (October 16, 2005). Raining on the Maestro’s parade was not popular.
3. Winner’s curse: The Torment of Chairman-designate Bernanke (November 4, 2005). I suspect Mrs. Bernanke wishes Mr. Bernanke read this before accepting the job.
August’s Employment Report showed the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent and creation of 173,000 new jobs. Predictably, the decline in the unemployment rate has triggered calls for higher interest rates from Wall Street Hawks on grounds that higher core inflation is just around the corner. That is the same call we heard when the unemployment rate was much higher, and it is the same call we heard in the past two business cycles.
Federal Reserve policymakers should ignore the Hawks and stop being afraid of tight labor markets. In a market economy, that is the way workers get a raise. There is no reason for the Fed to rock the boat and risk confiscating the raise working families have waited for so long. That is the message this Labor Day weekend. (more…)
An interview with Andrew Mazzone, President of the Board of Trustees, Henry George School of Social Science [VIEW HERE].
This paper examines the major competing interpretations of the economic crisis in the US and explains the rebound of neoliberal orthodoxy. It shows how US policymakers acted to stabilize and save the economy, but failed to change the underlying neoliberal economic policy model. That failure explains the emergence of stagnation, which is likely to endure. Current economic conditions in the US smack of the mid-1990s. The 1990s expansion proved unsustainable and so will the current modest expansion. However, this time it is unlikely to be followed by financial crisis because of the balance sheet cleaning that took place during the last crisis. [READ MORE]
June’s Employment Report showed the economy continued to edge forward, driven by momentum. But the numbers were softer than expected. That should provide a clear yellow flag to those Federal Reserve policymakers who have expressed impatience to raise interest rates.
Though the headline unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, that decline masks underlying weakening of conditions. The fall in the unemployment rate is fully explained by a fall in labor force participation, and job creation was on the weaker side.
The economy created 223,000 jobs, which is below the twelve month average of 250,000. Furthermore, April and May job creation numbers were revised down by 60,000.
This relative weakness is also reflected in average hourly wages which were unchanged. A strong labor market should produce sustained wage gains significantly above inflation, but we have not yet seen that.
There are solid reasons for these mixed conditions. The strong dollar is encouraging imports and discouraging manufacturing job creation. Budget austerity continues to strangle public sector investment and public sector job creation. The strong dollar and budget austerity are policy failures we can, should and must fix.
This paper examines several mainstream explanations of the financial crisis and stagnation and the role they attribute to income inequality. Those explanations are contrasted with a structural Keynesian explanation. The role of income inequality differs substantially, giving rise to different policy recommendations. That highlights the critical importance of economic theory. Theory shapes the way we understand the world, thereby shaping how we respond to it. The theoretical narrative we adopt therefore implicitly shapes policy. That observation applies forcefully to the issue of income inequality, the financial crisis and stagnation, making it critical we get the story right. [READ MORE]
April’s Employment Report showed a gain of 223,000 jobs and a further one-tenth percent decline in the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent. The good news is the report shows the economy continues to nudge forward and create jobs for newcomers into the labor force. The bad news is the economy is not growing fast enough to raise wages. (more…)
February’s employment report showed a gain of 295,00 jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent. The report is another in a string of strong employment reports, but it also contains depressingly familiar news about weak wage growth and millions of workers still short of work.
The Federal Reserve and Shared Prosperity: A Guide to the Policy Issues and Institutional ChallengesTuesday, January 27th, 2015
The Federal Reserve is a hugely powerful institution whose policies ramify with enormous effect throughout the economy. In the wake of the Great Recession, monetary policy focused on quantitative easing. Now, there is talk of normalizing monetary policy and interest rates. That conversation is important, but it is also too narrow and keeps policy locked into a failed status quo. There is need for a larger conversation regarding the entire framework for monetary policy and how central banks can contribute to shared prosperity. It is doubtful the US can achieve shared prosperity without the policy cooperation of the Fed. That makes understanding the Federal Reserve, the policy issues and institutional challenges, of critical importance. [READ MORE]