Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What Is The Full-Employment Unemployment Rate According To The Fed?

A recent article says 4.7%. See Fed Likely to Go Ahead With Rate Hikes Despite Trump Turmoil by Rich Miller of Bloomberg. Excerpts:

"Officials in March projected that the economy would grow 2.1 percent both this year and next, above their 1.8 percent estimate of its long-run cruising speed. They also reckoned that a 4.7 percent jobless rate was equivalent to full employment. Unemployment in April was 4.4 percent."

"Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said the course of inflation over the coming months will be more important in shaping the Fed’s plans than the political tumult in Washington.

Consumer-price inflation has slowed more than forecast in the last couple of months, raising questions about whether the Fed remains on track to achieve its 2 percent inflation target.

Feroli said the fundamentals point to inflation resuming its upward trend, with import and unit labor costs rising and the dollar falling.

As a result, he expects the Fed “to look past” the recent weakness in prices and raise interest rates again next month."

Here is some more information to help explain this issue.

We can see how this works in the following graph:

A GDP of $9 trillion is the "full-employment" GDP (QF). That gives us the lowest rate of unemployment compatible with "price stability" (price stability is an an annual inflation rate of 3% or less-although the article says 2% since that is what the Fed seems to be using these days). As GDP increases, more workers are hired, so unemployment falls. But if GDP is below QF, firms cannot raise prices. There is slack or "excess capacity" in the economy. That means that there will be very little pressure on prices. Resources are not very scarce and product prices don't have to be increased (or increased very much) to call them back into service.

But as GDP increases, resources become more scarce as more bidders want them. The more GDP increases, the faster prices increase. Also, less efficient resources get called into service and less efficiency means greater cost. The higher costs get passed along to the consumer in higher prices.

So, if there is a danger of AD going past QF the FED will raise interest rates to slow down private spending (both consumption and investment) to keep AD from moving too far to the right and prevent the higher rates of inflation.

No comments: