The labour market recovery in OECD countries has been steady but slow since the Great Recession. More worrying is the fate of wage growth over the same period. This column assesses the implications of stagnation in the labour market for growth, wages, and inequality. It finds that structural weaknesses in labour market performance have become more visible as markets recover from the Great Recession. The policy response must include macroeconomic policies aimed at strengthening investment, and structural policies to support growth while nudging workers towards higher-skilled jobs.
Stefano Scarpetta, Mark Keese, Paul Swaim, 25 July 2016
Federico Cingano, Francesco Manaresi, Enrico Sette, 24 June 2016
Negative shocks to bank balance sheets are problematic not just for financial markets, but for employment and economic growth more widely. This column uses evidence on a bank liquidity shock in Italy in 2007-10 to show the impact on firms’ production, investment, and employment. Firms borrowing from banks with a high exposure to the shock experienced a more intense fall both in credit flows and in investment expenditure. While the credit cut has been homogeneous across borrowers, firms with easier access to external finance were able to contain the negative consequences of the drop in credit for investment.
Thomas Gehrig, 25 May 2016
During normal operations, price discovery is an important feature of decentralised market trading. But the process can be distorted when markets are under great stress, such as during the run up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. This column uses trading data from the days leading up to and following the collapse to show that price discovery at US stock exchanges remained remarkably efficient, even at the height of the turmoil.
Ioana Marinescu, 01 March 2016
During the last recession the US experienced some of the highest unemployment rates in its history, prompting the government to dramatically extend the duration of unemployment benefits. Economists have since debated whether this action helped or hindered the recovery of the labour market. This column finds evidence of a ‘silver lining’ effect – extended unemployment benefits led people to submit fewer job applications, but this reduction increased the chances of each application being successful. Hence the overall impact of extending benefits on aggregate unemployment was rather small.
Refet Gürkaynak, 12 February 2016
Since the beginning of the Global Crisis, the ECB has faced a sequence of problems. This column discusses some of these problems. It also highlights the successful first reaction of the ECB to the crisis and its adequate monetary policies. There are still unresolved structural problems in the Eurozone, however. Among them are the lack of a proper banking union and the need for a better fiscal policy coordination. And the job for such a change within the Eurozone cannot be delegated to the ECB.
Giovanni Federico, Antonio Tena-Junguito, 07 February 2016
Parallels are often drawn between the Great Recession of the past decade and the economic turmoil of the interwar period. In terms of global trade, these comparisons are based on obsolete and incomplete data. This column re-estimates world trade since the beginning of the 19th century using a new database. The effect of the Great Recession on trade growth is sizeable but fairly small compared with the joint effect of the two world wars and the Great Depression. However, the effects will become more and more comparable if the current trade stagnation continues.
Dae Woong Kang, Nick Ligthart, Ashoka Mody, 19 January 2016
Although the Great Recession was viewed as a US problem, the Eurozone was affected by it from the start. This column compares the monetary policy responses to the Crisis by the Fed and the ECB. It argues that the US approach has been much more aggressive and proactive. The ECB failed to provide stimulus when needed, and as a result the Eurozone might slip into a low-inflation trap.
Janet Currie, 15 January 2016
Studies of the effects of economic fluctuations on health have come to wildly different conclusions. This may be because the effects are different for different groups. Using US data, this column looks at the health consequences of the Great Recession on mothers, a sub-population that has thus far been largely neglected in the literature. Increases in unemployment are found to have large negative health effects and to increase incidences of smoking and substance abuse among mothers. These effects appear to be concentrated on disadvantaged groups such as minorities, and point to short- and long-term consequences for their children.
Alessandra Bonfiglioli, Gino Gancia, 19 December 2015
The Great Recession highlighted the prominent role that economic uncertainty plays in hindering investment and growth. This column provides new evidence that economic uncertainty can actually play a positive role by promoting the implementation of structural reforms with long-run benefits. The effect appears to be strongest for countries with poorly informed voters. These findings suggest that times of uncertainty may present an opportunity to implement reforms that would otherwise not be passed.
Kevin Daly, Tim Munday, 28 November 2015
The fallout from the Global Crisis and its aftermath has been deeply damaging for European output. This column uses a growth accounting framework to explore the pre-Crisis and post-Crisis growth dynamics of several European countries. The weakness of post-Crisis real GDP in the Eurozone manifested itself in a decline in employment and average hours worked. However, decomposing growth for the Eurozone as a whole conceals significant differences across European countries, in both real GDP growth and its factor inputs.
Refet Gürkaynak, Troy Davig, 25 November 2015
Central banks around the world have been shouldering ever-increasing policy burdens beyond their core mandate of stabilising prices. This column considers the social welfare implications when central banks take on additional mandates that are usually the domain of other policymakers. Additional mandates are shown to worsen trade-offs faced by the central bank, while distorting the incentives of other policymakers. Central bank ‘mandate creep’ may be detrimental to welfare.
Andrew Foote, Michel Grosz, Ann Stevens, 17 November 2015
In light of the Great Recession, we continue to learn new ways in which economic downturns directly affect the labour market. This column suggests that following an adverse demand shock, individuals exit local labour markets primarily through migration, but that has become less prominent in the Great Recession. Faced with declining economic prospects, workers are becoming more likely to stay put, without re-entering the labour market.
Lawrence Summers, Antonio Fatás, 25 October 2015
The global financial crisis has permanently lowered the path of GDP in all advanced economies. At the same time, and in response to rising government debt levels, many of these countries have been engaging in fiscal consolidations that have had a negative impact on growth rates. We empirically explore the connections between these two facts by extending to longer horizons the methodology of Blanchard and Leigh (2013) regarding fiscal policy multipliers. Using data seven years after the beginning of the crisis as well as estimates on potential output our analysis suggests that attempts to reduce debt via fiscal consolidations have very likely resulted in a higher debt to GDP ratio through their negative impact on output. Our results provide support for the possibility of self-defeating fiscal consolidations in depressed economies as developed by DeLong and Summers (2012).
Athanasios Orphanides, 11 November 2015
There is generally consensus among macroeconomists that monetary policy works best when it is systematic. Following the financial crisis, the US Federal Reserve shifted from long-term, systematic policy to short-term goals targeting unemployment. This column argues that, while these were appropriate in the aftermath of the downturn, such policy accommodations have been pursued for too long since. The need for a somewhat accommodative policy cannot be used to defend the current non-systematic policy and excessive emphasis on short-term employment gains.
Lola Gadea, Ana Gomez-Loscos, Gabriel Pérez-Quirós, 26 October 2015
The Great Moderation is one of the most important changes in the US business cycle since statistics where gathered. This column contributes three main ideas – that output volatility remains subdued despite the tumult created by the Great Recession, that the Great Moderation structural break is found when considering a long historical dataset, and that the nature of the volatility reduction associated with the Great Moderation is linked to the features of expansion phases, in particular, to the absence of high growth recoveries.
Zoltan Jakab, Michael Kumhof, 18 June 2015
Problems in the banking sector played a seriously damaging role in the Great Recession. In fact, they continue to. This column argues that macroeconomic models were unable to explain the interaction between banks and the macro economy. The problem lies with thinking that banks create loans out of existing resources. Instead, they create new money in the form of loans. Macroeconomists need to reflect this in their models.
Francesco Bianchi, 22 April 2015
During the Great Recession, the possibility that the US might enter a second Great Depression was a real concern. This column argues that until early 2009, financial markets behaved in a manner consistent with the early years of the Great Depression. The large stock-market fall saw growth stocks outperforming value stocks. This pattern ended March 2009, arguably in light of robust policy interventions. These dynamics suggest that poor performance of growth stocks during regular times may be compensated by superior performance in crises.
Anusha Chari, Peter Blair Henry, 06 March 2015
In the wake of the Great Recession, a contentious debate has erupted over whether austerity is helpful or harmful for economic growth. This column compares the experiences of the East Asian countries – whose leaders responded to the East Asian financial crisis with expansionary fiscal policy – with those of the European periphery countries during the Great Recession. The authors argue that it was a mistake for the European periphery countries to pivot from fiscal expansion to consolidation before their economies had recovered.
Jan van Ours, 27 February 2015
The Great Recession has been characterised by an unprecedented decline in GDP, and unemployment rates remain above pre-Great Recession levels in many countries. This column argues that economic growth is a ‘one size fits all’ solution for the problem of unemployment, because the unemployment rates of different kinds of workers are strongly correlated within countries. That said, economic growth affects above all the position of young workers, and so benefits mostly those who need it the most.
Hans Holter, Dirk Krueger, Serhiy Stepanchuk, 20 February 2015
Since the Global Crisis, debt sustainability has received increasing attention. This column argues that the maximum sustainable debt level depends negatively on the progressivity of the tax system. The authors estimate that the US is still relatively far from the peak of its Laffer curve and from its maximally sustainable debt level. However, adopting a flat tax would raise the maximum sustainable debt from 330% to more than 350% of benchmark GDP, whereas adopting Danish-style progressivity would lower it to less than 250%.