President Barack Obama proposed a hike in the U.S. minimum wage during his State of the Union Address in February. Since then, we haven’t really heard very much about the proposal. That’s too bad for a U.S. economy that could still use a bit of a boost, according to new research.
A paper from the Chicago Fed finds that, while there might be little impact on long-term growth prospects from a higher minimum wage, the measure could add as much as 0.3 percentage point to gross domestic product in the short-run. That’s not insignificant for an economy that expanded at a soft annualized rate of just 1.1 percent over the last two quarters.
Surprise! Euro zone unemployment was stuck at record high of 12.2 percent in May, with the number of jobless quickly climbing towards 20 million. Still, as accustomed to grim job market headlines from Europe as the world has become, it is worth perusing through the Eurostat release for some of the nuances in the figures.
For one thing, as Matthew Phillips notes, Spain’s unemployment crisis is now officially more dire than Greece’s – and that’s saying something.
MARIETTA, Georgia (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve can likely begin reducing the pace of its bond-buying stimulus this year, though market turbulence and low inflation bear watching, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said on Thursday.
Global financial markets have been turbulent since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced last week the central bank would likely start to dial down the pace of its asset-buying in coming months.
WASHINGTON, June 20 (Reuters) – U.S. Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke is playing a potentially dangerous game of
chicken with global financial markets sent reeling by his threat
to scale back the central bank’s huge stimulus program.
The Fed chief stood his ground at a news conference on
Wednesday, laying out in detail a plan to begin winding down the
central bank’s $85 billion a month in bond purchases later this
year. At the same time, he emphasized the Fed does not see such
a move as an outright end to its supportive policy nor would it
mark an imminent start to interest rate increases.
Everybody knows U.S. unemployment, currently at 7.6%, is still too high – especially the millions of Americans struggling to find work. Less widely acknowledged is a recent dip in inflation that puts it well below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. Indeed, at 0.7 percent in April, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure was less than half of the central bank’s explicitly stated goal. So why are Fed officials, gathered in Washington for their latest policy decision today, discussing a pullback in stimulus rather than an increase in it?
According to some economists, it’s because policymakers believe the recent decline in inflation will be transitory and that the rate will gradually move back up toward target as growth picks up during the rest of this year and in 2014. Yesterday’s report on consumer prices corroborated that prospect for some analysts.
The monthly payrolls report from the U.S. Labor Department will always be the big kahuna of economic releases. Other, less prominent indicators of the American job market nonetheless can offer additional insight into the employment backdrop.
Take the clumsily-acronymed JOLTS report, which stands for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. It shows the ratio between job openings and job seekers, as well as the rate of new hires. The latter, unfortunately, is not particularly comforting.
For a central bank that likes to tout the importance of clear communication, the Federal Reserve sure knows how to be obtuse when it wants to. Take Bernanke’s testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress last month. His prepared remarks were reliably dovish, emphasizing weakness in the labor market and offering no hint of an imminent end to the current stimulus program, which involves the monthly purchase of $85 billion in assets.
It was during the question and answer session that the real fireworks came. Asked about the prospect for curtailing such bond buys, Bernanke said:
As the Federal Reserve meets this week, unemployment is still too high and inflation remains, well, too low. That makes some investors wonder why policymakers are talking about curtailing their asset-buying stimulus plan. True, job growth has averaged a solid 172,000 net new positions per month over the last year, going at least some way to meeting the Fed’s criteria of substantial improvement for halting bond purchases.
So, either policymakers see brighter skies ahead or they want to get out of QE3 for other reasons they may rather not air too publicly: worries about efficacy or possible financial market bubbles.
The first portion of Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin’s remarks to the Roosevelt Institute earlier this month were pretty standard central bank fodder. Raskin, on the dovish side of Fed monetary leanings, said U.S. unemployment was still too high, and far more progress was needed in bringing a somnolent job market back to life.
But the second half of her comments offered an unusually personal look at one Fed official’s dismay with the country’s economic situation. Stumbling into a job fair near her house, Raskin was stunned by the generally low quality of positions available. In her own words:
Ann Saphir contributed to this post
The apparent conclusion from one of the most dovish regional Federal Reserve banks was rather surprising: The economy may actually need much smaller monthly job growth, of around 80,000 or less, in coming years in order for the jobless rate to keep moving lower. The immediate policy implication, it might seem, is that the U.S. central bank may have to tighten monetary policy much sooner than previously thought.
Andrew Brenner of National Alliance remarked that, while the report should be taken with a grain of salt, “this translates to lowering the bar to QE tapering.”