It’s an arcane economics debate with all-too-real implications for U.S. monetary policy: Is high unemployment primarily the result of “structural” factors like skills mismatches and difficulties relocating, or is it largely due to insufficient consumer demand in a weak economic recovery?
Chris Reese contributed to this post.
A barrage of rotten economic news around the world has suddenly and vigorously reawakened the prospect of additional monetary easing by the Federal Reserve – most notably a report on Friday showing job growth slowed sharply in recent months.
Of all the questions Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was asked during his press conference on Wednesday, one appeared to pique his interest in particular: Was he being less aggressive as central bank chairman than the advice he dished out to Japan as an academic in the 1990s would prescribe?
Austerity in the euro zone seems to be working — at least as far as the headline, dry, soulless numbers of budget balancing are concerned. Bailed out Greece and Ireland have reported substantial improvements in last year’s profligacy performance. Spain, while going in the wrong direction, at least has the satisfaction of being told it is not telling fibs.
The Law of Diminishing Returns states that a continuing push towards a given goal tends to decline in effectiveness after a certain amount of effort has been expended. If this weren’t the case, Usain Bolt would be able to run the mile in less than 2-1/2 minutes.
How bad is the U.S. employment situation? The Labor Department’s tally for March, which showed only 120,000 new jobs were created, raised doubts about the sustainability of a recent pick up in job growth. But to get a broader sense of what things are really like it helps to put things in a longer-term perspective.
It was not a good day for Spain.
The euro zone’s fourth largest economy had to pay dearer to borrow through medium-term bonds, a sign that concerns over the country´s fiscal problems was curbing appetite for its debt. It sold 2.6 billion euros of 2015, 2016 and 2020 paper – at the low end of the target range.
Jason Lange contributed to this post
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made no direct references to the outlook for monetary policy in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics on Monday. But the message from his heavy focus on a weak labor market was pretty clear: The Fed is not considering tightening policy in the near future and stands ready to do more if growth doesn’t pick up steam this year. Ironically, Bernanke’s pessimism cheered the markets – by signaling that another round of stimulus is not off the table.