The U.S. workforce has been shrinking rapidly in recent years, but a new report from UniCredit highlights just how massive the effect of this trend really is. Economist Harm Bandholz says it amounts to a gaping 3.6 percentage points of U.S. unemployment.
That means the U.S. jobless rate, which dropped to 7.7 percent in February, would actually be around 11.3 percent without the decline in labor force participation. This would put American unemployment a lot closer to the euro zone’s recently reported record high rate of 11.9 percent.
Massachusetts’ rookie Senator Elizabeth Warren was out making waves again at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill today. The former Harvard law professor contrasted the legal code affecting drug prosecutions with what she depicted as cushy settlements for large Wall Street firms that committed egregious crimes.
Take Standard Chartered. They were fined $667 million by U.S. regulators for breaching sanctions related to Iran and three other countries. Yet the bank posted a tenth straight year of record profits.
After two days of testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman last week in which he decisively criticized Congress’ decision to slash spending arbitrarily in the middle of a fragile economic recovery, a report on money market funds from the New York Fed nails home the point.
The paper’s key finding is that, as most observers already knew, investors were a lot more worried about a break-up of the euro zone in the summer of 2011 than they were about U.S. congressional bickering over the debt ceiling.
WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s
aggressive monetary stimulus will make it harder for the U.S.
central bank to engineer a smooth retreat from its
unconventional policies, a top Fed official said on Tuesday.
“I fear that small mistakes (could have) large
consequences,” said Jeffrey Lacker, President of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Richmond and an inflation hawk who has been
skeptical of central bank bond buying.
That’s not a typo in the headline. In a recent speech that took some mental gymnastics to absorb, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke countered critics of his low rates policy by arguing that a loose monetary policy is the best way to ensure rates can rise to more normal levels.
Why? Because interest rates will naturally move higher once stronger economic growth leads to higher rates of return on investment, Bernanke said. Here’s his argument:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve’s influential vice chair, said on Monday the U.S. central bank’s aggressive monetary stimulus is warranted given how far the economy was operating below its full potential.
Downplaying the potential costs of the Fed’s unconventional easing efforts, which currently include $85 billion in monthly asset purchases, Yellen highlighted the dangers of a prolonged period of economic malaise.
Despite the Obama administration’s cataclysmic warnings about the effects of $85 billion in looming spending cuts known as the “sequester,” chances are the lights will not go out when they kick in this weekend. Still, the economic impact could be significant. The cutbacks might shave a half percentage point or more from an economy that is forecast to grow around 2 percent this year — but which only mustered a 0.1 percent increase in annualized fourth quarter GDP. This, at a time when a similar austerity-driven approach has left much of Europe mired in recession.
Both the public and the markets seem to be taking Washington’s latest war of words in stride. After all, people are becoming inured to the regularly scheduled fiscal crises that have become a part of the capital’s landscape. But the sequester’s most frightening potential consequence is much broader than its near-term economic ripples. The real danger is that, with every new episode of political theater over the budget, America’s credibility as a serious, trustworthy nation is eroded. The concept of political risk, once reserved for banana republics in the developing world, is now very much alive in the United States. And that is one liberty a debtor nation cannot afford to take.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. jobless rate is unlikely to reach more normal levels for several years, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday as he again defended the central bank’s forceful easing of monetary policy.
Appearing before a congressional panel for a second straight day, Bernanke downplayed signs of internal divisions at the Fed, saying the policy of quantitative easing, or QE, has the support of a “significant majority” of top central bank officials.
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
(Reuters) – U.S. economic growth could surpass expectations this year, but an anemic labor market requires ongoing support from monetary policy, a top Federal Reserve official said on Monday.
Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, cited strength in sectors such as housing, autos, and energy production and exploration as factors that could push the U.S. economy to grow at a rate beyond his current forecast for a range between 2 percent and 2.5 percent.
Financial markets are again on edge about the direction of Fed policy following the surprisingly hawkish minutes of the January meeting released last week, even if most still expect the central bank to keep buying bonds at the current $85 billion monthly pace at least until the end of the year.
Federal Reserve Board Governor Jeremy Stein, an academic economist who joined the central bank last May, surprised Fed-watchers in his latest speech by focusing entirely on the risks of recent monetary stimulus and saying very little about its benefits. In particular, Stein, a corporate finance expert, raised the possibility that a bubble might be forming in the corporate bond markets, which has seen yields fall to record lows and issuance to record highs.