Hie Joo Ahn, James Hamilton, 14 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis in the US sent the unemployment rate soaring just as labour force participation crashed. A closer look at the data reveals several inconsistencies across labour force measures and the resulting unemployment estimates. This column highlights large discrepancies between the number of unemployment insurance claims and the count of unemployed in recent months, as well as in the number of people outside the labour force who wanted a job at the time. It argues that the actual unemployment rate was two percentage points higher prior to the pandemic than reported, and this gap has likely widened since the crisis.

Eudora Ribeiro, 12 August 2020

Fear and imposed isolation due to COVID-19 have raised alarms about the impact on mental health on a global scale. The severe anticipated global recession and substantial increases in unemployment and indebtedness are both risk factors for suicide. This column reviews past similar scenarios of pandemics and recessions and its links to suicide. The recipe for preventing suicide amidst the COVID-19 pandemic includes investment in mental healthcare, such as providing suicide prevention services, and active employment policies.

John McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Harry Mamaysky, 08 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has been characterised by extremely volatile markets and extremely negative news coverage. Using all relevant Reuters news articles from January to June 2020, this column shows that a 12-topic model effectively tracks the evolution of crisis news flow. In the early stages of the crisis, markets frequently reacted to uninformative news. This dynamic underwent a structural break in mid-March, likely due to Fed interventions, after which markets became more ‘normal’. Investors, lacking early hard evidence on the effects of the crisis, interpreted many news stories as being informative about future pandemic outcomes, even though they were not.

Oriol Aspachs, Ruben Durante, José García-Montalvo, Alberto Graziano, Josep Mestres, Marta Reynal-Querol, 22 September 2020

The economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic may disproportionately affect the most vulnerable segments of the population, creating serious challenges for social cohesion and political stability. This column constructs a high-frequency measure of income inequality using anonymised data from bank records on the wages and public transfers of over three million account holders in Spain. Wage inequality increased by almost 30% during the COVID-19 crisis, mainly due to job losses and wage cuts for low-income workers. However, public transfers were very effective at offsetting most, though not all, of this increase.

Marcin Wolski, Patricia Wruuck, 05 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has had a substantial impact on labour markets throughout Europe. This column uses new data sources based on Google Trends reports in order to investigate the speed of transmission of the crisis into individuals’ concerns about becoming unemployed. The results indicate that this transmission is linked to corporate resilience. A stronger financial position of firms to withstand liquidity shortfalls may have helped to cushion the deterioration in job market sentiment during the outbreak of the pandemic, suggesting the importance of bolstering liquidity as a way of sheltering jobs. 

Yinon Bar-On, Ofer Cornfeld, Tatiana Baron, Ron Milo, Eran Yashiv, 04 July 2020

Rapidly expanding research on COVID-19 in economics typically posits an economy subject to a model of epidemiological dynamics. This column shows that there are often serious misspecifications of the model, which erroneously assume a relatively slow-moving disease, thereby distorting the policy decisions towards less severe, delayed interventions. Moreover, the scale of the disease is underestimated.

Lubos Pastor, Blair Vorsatz, 30 July 2020

Active fund managers are widely believed to outperform during market downturns. This column uses daily returns from US active equity mutual funds to examine fund performance and investor behaviour in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. It finds that active equity mutual funds underperform a variety of passive benchmarks, contradicting the popular belief that active managers outperform in downturns. In addition, investors have favoured sustainable funds during the crisis, suggesting that sustainability is now viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury good.

Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 29 July 2020

COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, who are dying at a rate two to three times higher than their population share. This column uses a detailed individual-level dataset from Cook County, Illinois, to explore the relationship between COVID-19 mortality and race. Not only are Black Americans disproportionally affected by COVID-19, but they also started to succumb to it earlier than other groups. Such asymmetric effects can be traced back to racial segregation introduced by discriminatory lending practices in the 1930s.

Michèle Belot, Syngjoo Choi, Egon Tripodi, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Julian C. Jamison, Nicholas W. Papageorge, 24 July 2020

Almost all countries in the world have implemented drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. This column documents the effects of the epidemic and containment measures using representative individual data on age and income from three Western and three Asian countries. Younger groups in all countries have been affected more, both economically and non-economically. Differences across income groups are less clear and less consistent across countries. The young are less compliant and supportive of the containment measures, no matter how hard they have been affected by them.

Isaiah Hull, 23 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed pressure on central banks and other public institutions to monitor the economy at a higher frequency than usual. However, much of the data and expertise needed to perform such monitoring is concentrated in the private sector and academia. This column describes the effort made by the Swedish Riksbank to alleviate this bottleneck by opening up a collaborative public channel through which academics and the private sector can directly contribute to the research in real time.

Dimitris Papanikolaou, Lawrence D.W. Schmidt, 23 July 2020

COVID-19 has massively disrupted the supply side of the world economy, shutting down entire industries. This column analyses how these disruptions affected different types of firms and workers by looking at how effectively different sectors can shift to remote work. While the major policy interventions in the US have treated all types of business as equivalent, industries which are not able to do their work remotely have been hit much harder than business that can. This cross-sectional dispersion shows up across a variety of measures, including changes in employment, revenue projections, likelihood of default, current liquidity, and stock returns. Going forward, aid that targets disrupted sectors may be a more cost-effective means to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19.

Egor Malkov, 22 July 2020

The lockdown measures have brought to light the importance of the nature of work. This column discusses how teleworkability and contact intensity of different jobs both shape the distribution of risks created by the pandemic. The existing distribution of working couples suggests that two-thirds of the US ‘dual-earner’ couples are exposed to greater intra-household contagion risk. About one-fourth are exposed to greater labour income risk. Patterns in skill requirements increase the likelihood of skill mismatch for the newly unemployed. These observations have direct policy implications whilst highlighting potential constraints on their effectiveness.

Anne-Laure Delatte, Alexis Guillaume, 17 July 2020

There was a risk of another euro crisis in Spring 2020. Yet, after a massive sell-off of peripheral bonds, the markets have stabilised. This column analyses the impact of events over the last months on euro area sovereign bond spreads. It finds that differences in healthcare capacity are reflected in bond prices, markets prefer fiscal transfers to loans-based financial assistance programs, and that ECB speeches have stronger effects than deeds during the crisis episode. Of all the euro area members, Italian spreads benefited most from the recent policy interventions.

Victor Chernozhukov, Hiroyuki Kasahara, Paul Schrimpf, 15 July 2020

Faced with COVID-19, people rationally and voluntarily respond to information on risks, making it difficult to distinguish the effect of containment policies from that of voluntary behavioural responses. This column examines the effect of mandatory mask policies on COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US. If the US had on 1 April 2020 universally mandated that employees of public-facing businesses use masks, there could have been nearly 40% fewer deaths by the start of June. Containment policies had a large impact on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, directly by reducing transmission rates and indirectly by constraining people’s behaviour, and account for roughly half the observed change in the growth rates of cases and deaths.

Biagio Bossone, Harish Natarajan, 15 July 2020

Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment systems and services must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The third column of this series analyses the role that a central bank digital currency can play in this context, and outlines the key steps required for its successful implementation. In addition, the column proposes improvements to the existing payments infrastructure to ensure continued operability, especially in times of emergency.

Biagio Bossone, Harish Natarajan, 14 July 2020

Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment systems and services must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The second column of this series discusses the special role that government payments and international remittances play, in particular for developing economies, and identifies measures to ensure their accessibility and resilience especially at times of emergencies.

Filippo di Mauro, 10 July 2020

In the recovery from Covid-19 we urgently need to boost productivity. But which policies move the needle? Filippo di Mauro tells Tim Phillips about what CompNet's firm-level productivity data tells us about both the problem and the solution.

Biagio Bossone, Harish Natarajan, 13 July 2020

Governments and economists are now focused on the macroeconomic policies that can support economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, for policies to be effective and economies to function, payment and settlement systems and services – collectively referred to as the National Payments System – must operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. The first column of this series identifies the challenges affecting payment services during emergencies and discusses measures to ensure that payment systems keep operating. Public authorities should be proactive in mitigating risks to payment systems to support economic activity and help the public.



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