Bernanke: PIB potencial es explicación limitada para débil recuperación

Genevieve Signoret & Patrick Signoret

22 nov 2012

Bernanke habló de la recuperación económica y de política económica sin dar indicios importantes sobre la política monetaria a futuro. Explicó que si bien la tasa de crecimiento potencial del PIB pudo haber caído un poco, es una explicación limitada para la decepcionante recuperación económica. Por lo tanto, la postura altamente acomodaticia sigue siendo apropiada. Barclays resume ($).

Michael Gapen de Barclays (Chairman Bernanke: A highly accommodative stance remains appropriate, 20 noviembre 2012):

The chairman said that recoveries following financial crises and housing bubbles tend to be associated with a reduction in the pace of potential growth. He said the dislocation in housing, financial, and other sectors leads to a skills mismatch in the labor market, an erosion of marketable job skills, and a rise in the natural rate of unemployment. Fed studies have also suggested that tight credit conditions, higher risk aversion, and lower productivity may also be restraining potential output. He pointed to the lower unemployment rate and the modest rate of job growth as suggesting that potential GDP growth has slowed. These are all points we agree with and have been important factors in our view that the unemployment rate will decline faster than expected in a moderate growth environment.

However, although the chairman said that non-monetary factors were likely contributing factors to a slower recovery, he added that “a variety of evidence” pointed to a modest impact from them, indicating instead “broad-based shortfall in demand” as the more substantial impediment to a stronger recovery. He also cited the housing market, bank balance sheet repair, a reluctance among banks to extend lending, the fiscal and financial situation in Europe, and a potential tightening of US fiscal policy as factors constraining the recovery and likely to do so for some time to come.

Del discurso de Bernanke:

The accumulating evidence does appear consistent with the financial crisis and the associated recession having reduced the potential growth rate of our economy somewhat during the past few years. In particular, slower growth of potential output would help explain why the unemployment rate has declined in the face of the relatively modest output gains we have seen during the recovery. Output normally has to increase at about its longer-term trend just to create enough jobs to absorb new entrants to the labor market, and faster-than-trend growth is usually needed to reduce unemployment. So the fact that unemployment has declined in recent years despite economic growth at about 2 percent suggests that the growth rate of potential output must have recently been lower than the roughly 2-1/2 percent rate that appeared to be in place before the crisis.

There are a number of ways in which the financial crisis could have slowed the rate of growth of the economy’s potential. For example, the extraordinarily severe job losses that followed the crisis, especially in housing-related industries, may have exacerbated for a time the extent of mismatch between the jobs available and the skills and locations of the unemployed. Meanwhile, the very high level of long-term unemployment has probably led to some loss of skills and labor force attachment among those workers. These factors may have pushed up to some degree the so-called natural rate of unemployment–the rate of unemployment that can be sustained under normal conditions–and reduced labor force participation as well. The pace of productivity gains–another key determinant of growth in potential output–may also have been restrained by the crisis, as business investment declined sharply during the recession; and increases in risk aversion and uncertainty, together with tight credit conditions, may have impeded the commercial application of new technologies and slowed the pace of business formation.

Importantly, however, although the nation’s potential output may have grown more slowly than expected in recent years, this slowing seems at best a partial explanation of the disappointing pace of the economic recovery. In particular, even though the natural rate of unemployment may have increased somewhat, a variety of evidence suggests that any such increase has been modest, and that substantial slack remains in the labor market. For example, the slow pace of employment growth has been widespread across industries and regions of the country. That pattern suggests a broad-based shortfall in demand rather than a substantial increase in mismatch between available jobs and workers, because greater mismatch would imply that the demand for workers would be strong in some regions and industries, not weak almost across the board. Likewise, if a mismatch of jobs and workers is the predominant problem, we would expect to see wage pressures developing in those regions and industries where labor demand is strong; in fact, wage gains have been quite subdued in most industries and parts of the country. Indeed, as I indicated earlier, the consensus among my colleagues on the FOMC is that the unemployment rate is still well above its longer-run sustainable level, perhaps by 2 to 2-1/2 percentage points or so.

A critical question, then, is why significant slack in the job market remains three years after the recovery began. A likely explanation, which I will discuss further, is that the economy has been faced with a variety of headwinds that have hindered what otherwise might have been a stronger cyclical rebound. If so, we may take some encouragement from the likelihood that there are potentially two sources of faster GDP growth in the future. First, the effects of the crisis on potential output should fade as the economy continues to heal. And second, if the headwinds begin to dissipate, as I expect, growth should pick up further as many who are currently unemployed or out of the labor force find work.

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