Stefania Fabrizio, Vivian Malta, Marina M. Tavares, 20 June 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is depressing growth globally, and lockdown measures are causing widespread job losses. This column illustrates that women are amongst the worst affected. Women are vulnerable not only because of their jobs, but also because of gender inequalities within housework division, education, and health. There is an urgent need to support women, repair gender disparities aggravated by crisis, and to reduce women’s vulnerability going forward. Gender-responsive fiscal measures are viable tools that work in the interests of women, as well as supporting economic growth and reducing poverty and inequality.

Sylvain Leduc, Zheng Liu, 14 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the future of work. The pandemic may become recurrent and necessitate repeated adoptions of social distancing measures, creating substantial uncertainty about worker productivity. This column presents a theoretical framework suggesting that such job uncertainty reduces aggregate demand, and dampens business investment in general. However, automation may provide one way for businesses to cope with the uncertainty about worker productivity. It appears that pandemic-induced job uncertainty could stimulate automation investment, despite declines in aggregate demand.

Adam Brzezinski, Valentin Kecht, David Van Dijcke, 12 June 2020

Lockdown policies have been found to be effective in promoting social distancing and slowing down the spread of COVID-19. Yet, such measures are often blamed for downturns in the economy. This column argues that the lockdowns in the US are in fact efficient in minimising the costs of the epidemic, once both the economic and medical burden that would arise in the absence of such policies are considered. Estimates from a controlled SIR model, which includes the possibility for changes in behaviour, suggest that lockdowns reduce the costs of the pandemic by at least 1.7% of annual GDP compared to a no-lockdown scenario.

Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Moritz Kuhn, Michèle Tertilt, 30 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has hit women’s employment particularly hard, partly because the worst-hit sectors have high female employment shares, but also because schools and daycare closures have forced more mothers to leave their jobs. This column looks at Germany, where 26% of the workforce has children aged 14 or younger, and quantifies the macroeconomic importance of working parents. If schools and daycare centres remain closed as the economy slowly reopens, 11% of workers and 8% of all working hours will be lost to the labour market. Policies to restart the economy must accommodate the concerns of these families.

Helsinki Graduate School of Economics Situation Room, 21 May 2020

Effective management of the COVID-19 crisis requires real data in real time, often drawn from multiple sources. This column describes how researchers in Finland have created a remote-access ‘Situation Room’ that allows for real-time analysis of the Finnish economy, both for the government and for the wider public. The results from the study provide useful insights for policymakers in Finland and beyond.

Charles Goodhart, Duncan Needham, 16 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis presents a multi-faceted challenge to policymakers. A combination of declining commodity prices, the rise in unemployment, and emergency state spending are all set to create challenging economic conditions, even as the pandemic itself subsides. This column argues that one mechanism that could help control long-run inflation levels is the issuance of long-dated gilts. This would also help to protect the young and unborn generations from the threat of resurgent inflation, which could lead to a massive rise in their future debt service requirements. 

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Michael Weber, 12 May 2020

Business cycles are rarely a matter of life or death in advanced economies, but the COVID-19 crisis is forcing policymakers into painful trade-offs between saving lives and saving the economy. This column uses several waves of a customised survey to study the economic costs of US lockdowns in terms of spending, labour market outcomes, and macroeconomic expectations. It finds overall spending drops of more than 30%, unemployment expectations climbing more than 10%, inflation expectations falling, uncertainty rising, and plans to purchase large durables plummeting.

Alexander Bick, Adam Blandin, 06 May 2020

As this column is published, the most recent government labour market statistics for the US refer to the week of 8-14 March, and so do not yet reflect the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. This column uses a series of real-time labour market surveys of US households to document labour market outcomes more rapidly and more often than traditional government surveys. The estimates point to unprecedented devastation in the US labour market. New surveys will be run throughout the summer.

Almut Balleer, Britta Gehrke, Brigitte Hochmuth, Christian Merkl, 01 May 2020

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the EU has implemented the SURE programme which provides loans up to €100 billion to member states for the support of short-time work systems. In order to obtain the maximum unemployment stabilisation with these funds, this column argues that the SURE loans should be used to support rule-based short-time work systems that require workers’ consent and that are aligned with national short-term unemployment benefit systems. During the COVID-19 crisis, additions to these rules may be appropriate.

ChaeWon Baek, Peter B. McCrory, Todd Messer, Preston Mui, 30 April 2020

Stay-at-home orders have been imposed in many countries to flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve, but it’s not clear how much economic disruption is caused directly by the orders and how much by the coronavirus. This column disentangles the two by comparing the implementation of stay-at-home policies across the US and high-frequency unemployment insurance claims. The direct effect of stay-at-home orders accounted for a significant but minority share of the overall rise in unemployment claims; unemployment would have risen even without such orders. So long as the underlying public health crisis persists, undoing stay-at-home orders will only bring limited economic relief.

Lucas Ronconi, Ravi Kanbur, Santiago López-Cariboni, 24 April 2020

A standard argument in labour economics is that labour regulations benefit the ‘insiders’ who are covered by them, but hurt the ‘outsiders’ who are not. This column provides evidence on outsiders’ preferences for labour regulations in developing countries. Contrary to the predictions of the insider-outsider theory, unemployed and informal workers are found to be in favour of increasing labour regulations across all countries studied.

Zsoka Koczan, Alexander Plekhanov, 22 April 2020

While flexible labour markets normally facilitate economic adjustment during crises, recent Google search data suggest that the widespread Covid-19 lockdowns may impede this adjustment process. This column explores how labour market structures may determine how employment levels across middle-income countries are affected by the shock. The impending job and income losses are likely to be most severe where fewer people have permanent contracts, where many are self-employed, and where more people work for small firms and in retail. In the long term, these asymmetric impacts may further increase the demand for public-sector jobs.

Miguel Faria e Castro, 11 April 2020

Workers will inevitably be laid off as a result of measures implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. This column estimates what the unemployment rate may be at the end of the second quarter of 2020, by combining different types of statistics on industry and occupation composition. It finds that over 52 million people could be unemployed, with a 32.1% unemployment rate.

Christian Merkl, Enzo Weber, 07 April 2020

The spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing drastic lockdowns are placing economies and labour markets worldwide in a state of emergency. Governments are struggling to safeguard jobs and firms. Short-time work and comprehensive liquidity support for businesses and the self-employed are some measures being used. This column illustrates the consequences of a substantial hiring stall on unemployment and proposes hiring subsidies – directly reduce firms’ costs and thereby stimulate hiring – as a cost-effective stimulus measure for European countries to reduce the risk of unemployment hysteresis effects.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 01 April 2020

Short-time work is a subsidy for temporary reductions in the number of hours worked in firms affected by temporary shocks. Evidence suggests that it can have large positive effects on employment and can be more effective than unemployment insurance or universal transfers. This column discusses how the COVID-19 crisis – with its mandated reduction in hours of work and massive liquidity crunch for firms – is a textbook case for the use of short-time work. Taking into account available evidence and the current situation, it proposes guidelines to effectively implement short-term work.

Josef Zweimüller, 28 February 2020

Can differences in culture and attitudes towards work explain differences in unemployment across time and space?

Céline Carrère, Anja Grujovic, Frédéric Robert-Nicoud, 13 November 2019

Unemployment is absent from most quantitative trade models in the academic literature. Using a trade model that also includes unemployment and data between 2001 and 2008, this column shows that repealing NAFTA and the imposition of 20% bilateral tariffs between the US and Mexico in all sectors would reduce welfare by 0.31% in the US and by 6.6% in Mexico. An US increase of trade barriers on motor vehicles against imports from all countries bar Mexico and Canada would lead to a decrease in long-run welfare and employment in both Mexico and the US as well as in major car-producing countries. 

Price Fishback, 12 November 2019

The US became the ‘arsenal of democracy’ by producing a massive amount of military goods that raised real GDP by 72% between 1940 and 1945. Yet, multiplier estimates for this expansion in government spending are less than one. Long-range studies at subnational levels show that military spending was associated with small effects on per capita activity. Military spending in the context of a quasi-command economy crowded out private consumption and investment and forced people into the military. In essence, Americans sacrificed heavily to win the war, while their Allies sacrificed even more.  

Roger Farmer, Giovanni Nicolò, 20 May 2019

The economies of many countries are operating close to full capacity, but unemployment and inflation are both low. Using data from the US, UK and Canada, this column compares differences in the macroeconomic behaviour of real GDP, the inflation rate and the yields on three-month Treasury securities in the three countries. It shows that the Farmer monetary model, closed with a belief function, outperforms the New Keynesian model, closed with the New Keynesian Phillips curve. The data fit the multiple equilibria emphasised in the Farmer model well, rather than the mean-reverting processes assumed by the New Keynesian model. 

Pascal Michaillat, Emmanuel Saez, 13 May 2019

Academics and policymakers alike have debated how to structure an optimal stimulus package since the Great Recession. This column revisits the arguments related to the size of the multiplier and the usefulness of public spending, and offers a blueprint for future stimulus packages. It finds that the relationship between the multiplier and stimulus spending is hump-shaped, and that a well-designed stimulus package should depend on the usefulness of public expenditure. The output multiplier is not a robust statistic to use, and instead the ‘unemployment multiplier’ should be used. 


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