A penny spent is a penny earned (by someone else): Measuring GDP
S Borağan Aruoba, Francis X. Diebold, Jeremy J Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, Dongho Song 03 December 2013
GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.
“A growing number of economists say that the government should shift its approach to measuring growth. The current system emphasises data on spending, but the bureau also collects data on income. In theory the two should match perfectly – a penny spent is a penny earned by someone else. But estimates of the two measures can diverge widely, particularly in the short term...”
[Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times, 16 August 2011]
Frontiers of economic research
US, GDP, unemployment, data, measurement, national income accounting
Currency wars and the euro
Jens Nordvig 25 November 2013
Having promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the survival of the euro, the ECB now faces the problem of record high unemployment combined with a strong currency. There is accumulating evidence that the ECB is more willing to fight currency appreciation than the Bundesbank would have been. Capital inflows have been a key source of recent upward pressure on the euro. Should this continue, the ECB may need to intervene more aggressively in order to promote economic recovery in the Eurozone.
A new battle for the ECB to fight
Last year, the ECB entered an existential battle for the euro. By promising to do ‘whatever it takes’ to safeguard the euro, the ECB managed to calm sovereign debt markets and engineer a much-needed easing of overall credit conditions in the Eurozone.
EU institutions Exchange rates Monetary policy
ECB, eurozone, euro, unemployment, Bundesbank, Currency wars
Can temporary in-work support help the long-term unemployed enter sustained work?
Richard Dorsett 21 November 2013
Individuals moving from long-term unemployment into work face a number of challenges. This column discusses the use of temporary in-work support during this transition. Recent experimental evidence has shown the potential for such support to have a positive long-term effect. It can increase not only employment entry but also employment retention, and so may provide a means of addressing the low pay, no pay cycle.
There is growing awareness among policymakers that, in order to break the so-called ‘low pay, no pay’ cycle, labour market programmes must do more than just encourage job entry. To help the unemployed achieve long-term self-sufficiency, they must also support them in work. For a long-time, the UK and the US have provided in-work payments to low-paid workers via Working Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, respectively. These are available on an ongoing basis, and are intended to sharpen work incentives by increasing the rewards to employment.
unemployment, incentives, low pay, tax credits, hysteresis
How much unemployment insurance do we need?
Rafael Lalive, Camille Landais, Josef Zweimüller 09 November 2013
In response to the Great Recession, unemployment insurance has been extended in many countries, but there is controversy over whether such extensions are optimal. Unemployment insurance entails direct fiscal costs, and encourages job seekers to prolong their search. The familiar benefit of unemployment insurance is that it allows the jobless to maintain their consumption. However, by reducing the search effort of other workers, it also improves a given worker’s chance of finding a job. Unemployment insurance extensions appear less costly when these search externalities are considered.
The global crisis that erupted in 2008 has put millions of workers out of a job. The US, for instance, experienced a dramatic increase in unemployment from around 4% to more than 10% during the Great Recession. Unemployment remained stubbornly high even when the economy began to recover.
Global crisis Labour markets
unemployment, Unemployment insurance, search externalities
Unemployment, labour-market flexibility and IMF advice: Moving beyond mantras
Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, Prakash Loungani 18 October 2013
The state of labour markets in advanced economies remains dismal despite recent signs of growth. This column explains the IMF’s logic behind the advice it provided on labour markets during the Great Recession. It argues that flexibility is crucial both at the micro level, i.e. on worker reallocation, and at the macro level, e.g. on collective agreements. It suggests that the IMF approach is close to the consensus among labour-market researchers.
Growth in advanced economies is gaining some speed. The IMF projects these economies will grow 2% next year, up from an expected 1.2% this year. The average unemployment rate in advanced economies is expected to inch down from its peak of 8.3% in 2010 to 8% next year. This is progress, but it is clearly not enough. The state of labour markets remains dismal for a number of reasons.
Labour markets Welfare state and social Europe
unemployment, institutions, IMF, trust, Unemployment insurance, labour-market flexibility, EZ crisis, collective bargaining
Social job-search networks and the transition from school to stable employment
Francis Kramarz, Oskar Nordström Skans 17 October 2013
Modest recoveries in employment following the crisis mask severe youth unemployment. Because labour market struggles during the early stages of working life can have persistent negative effects, understanding job-finding networks among youth is key to forming pro-employment policies. This column analyses the transition from schooling to working life of Swedish youth. Close familial ties are important in job searches, especially among the less educated. Preliminary evidence suggests that family association can signal worker ability.
The challenges faced by young workers transitioning from school into stable employment are a major concern throughout the OECD. The search for stable employment is a time-consuming process, particularly in countries without highly developed apprenticeship systems. Many young workers – especially the least educated – are caught struggling for years.
Considering the importance of this process we know surprisingly little about the strategies used by young job searchers looking for entry jobs. Two key insights arise from the large body of research on job-finding networks:
unemployment, jobs, youth unemployment, graduates
How the great recession affected unemployment of non-Western Immigrants in the Netherlands
Jan van Ours 06 October 2013
In absolute terms, the Great Recession affected the unemployment rate of non-Western immigrants more than that of native workers in the Netherlands. However, this merely reflects their generally weak labour-market position – job-finding rates are much lower for non-Western immigrants than they are for natives. There is little difference between the cyclical sensitivity of these two groups’ unemployment or job-finding rates. In relative terms, the labour-market position of non-Western immigrants is bad, but the Great Recession did not make it worse.
The labour-market position of immigrants in many European countries is weak – unemployment rates among immigrants are high, and employment rates are low (OECD 2011). There are various explanations for this. Immigrants often have lower educational attainment than natives, and fewer language skills. Furthermore, ethnic identity may be important.
Labour markets Migration
unemployment, migration, Netherlands, Great Recession
German labour reforms: Unpopular success
Tom Krebs, Martin Scheffel 20 September 2013
Faced with stubbornly high and persistent unemployment in 2003-05 the German government implemented far-reaching labour-market reforms, the so-called Hartz reforms. This column shows that these reforms were highly successful in bringing down the non-cyclical component of unemployment in Germany but also argues that the Hartz reforms created winners and losers. This explains why these reforms have been hugely unpopular among the German public.
Just a few years ago, Germany was known as the sick man of Europe (Burda 2007). Starting from an average unemployment rate below 4% in the 1970s, Germany saw its rate increase to almost 9% in the period 1995-2005. As seen in Figure 1 the unemployment rate has a strong cyclical component but also a trend component that has been rising since the 1970s until the mid-2000s.
Figure 1. Quarterly unemployment rate, Germany 1970Q1-2012Q4
Labour markets Macroeconomic policy
Germany, unemployment, reforms
The downsizing dilemmas of European employers
Hendrik P van Dalen, Kène Henkens 28 August 2013
In times of economic crisis, managers often take drastic measures to survive. This column presents new research on the preferences of managers from across Europe when faced with ‘downsizing’. It seems that, when recession bites, the instincts or ‘animal spirits’ of employers that were previously suppressed by prosperity or considered to be outdated resurface. European employers predominantly resort to offering early retirement packages (and to a lesser extent buy-outs) in response to the threat of downsizing, exacerbating, in the long run, the problems associated with Europe’s ageing population. The only notable exception to this rule is the response of Danish employers, who prefer to tackle this problem by reducing the working hours of their employees.
Drastic measures are taken when managers formulate strategies to survive economic crises. Among these are downsizing, outsourcing, firing workers and cutting back on wages. But how do firms balance their interests against those of their workers?
unemployment, Eurozone crisis, downsizing, hiring, firing
Accounting for the ethnic unemployment gap in France and the US
Laurent Gobillon, Peter Rupert, Étienne Wasmer 23 July 2013
The unemployment rate in France is roughly six percentage points higher for African immigrants than for natives. Why? This column argues that the explanation is spatial: recent immigrants tend to have much longer commute times. Research suggests that in the region of 20% of the employment gap between the French minority and the French majority can be put down to commute times, but more research is needed, especially in France where research into the ethnic unemployment gap is scarce.
The unemployment rate in France is roughly six percentage points higher for African immigrants than for natives. In the US, the unemployment rate is approximately nine percentage points higher for black people than for white people. The gap between the minority (African immigrants or black people) and the majority (natives or white people) remains important even after controlling for individual attributes such as education, age or other demographic characteristics.
Europe's nations and regions Labour markets
France, unemployment, race, ethnicity, commuting