Marco Del Negro, Michele Lenza, Giorgio Primiceri, Andrea Tambalotti, 18 September 2020

The analysis of inflation dynamics and their possible changes over time is a key input in the design of monetary policy, particularly in the context of the strategy reviews recently undertaken by the Federal Reserve and currently under way at the ECB and other central banks. This column studies the causes of the stability of US inflation over the business cycle since the 1990s. It concludes that the stability is mainly due to a reduced sensitivity of firms’ pricing decisions to their cost pressures. Ignoring this observation could impair the ability of monetary policy to steer inflation toward its objective.

Steffen Juranek, Jörg Paetzold, Hannes Winner, Floris Zoutman, 12 September 2020

Sweden attracted international attention for not imposing a strict lockdown after the outbreak of COVID-19. This column analyses the labour market effects of this strategy by comparing unemployment and furlough spells in Sweden to three of its Nordic neighbours. The evidence suggests that the labour markets of all countries were severely hit by the pandemic, but Sweden performed slightly better than its neighbours. 

Charles Goodhart, Dimitri Tsomocos, Xuan Wang, 07 August 2020

A sizeable proportion of enterprises, especially SMEs, in receipt of financial assistance from the government will fail to repay. This column asks whether, and to what extent, it may be beneficial to apply a screening mechanism to deter those mostly likely to fail to repay from seeking financial assistance in the first place. The answer largely turns on the relative weights attached for the objectives of stabilisation as compared with allocative efficiency.

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. 

Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 14 July 2020

One of the most urgent economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis is on labour markets. Widespread job losses, drastic increases in unemployment benefit claims, and the rise of working from home have dominated the discussion during the pandemic so far. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that the pandemic itself represents reallocation of labour within the economy. As different sectors and occupations are hit with variable severity, the authors argue that policymakers should be wary of this variation, responding with policies that will hold firm over time.

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.

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