Alex Bryson, David Blanchflower, 21 October 2021

Economic downturns are not as unpredictable as we once thought. There is mounting evidence that the expectations of consumers, workers and employers predict economic downturns, sometimes 12 to 18 months ahead. But we live in exceptional times. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have sown doubt and uncertainty among consumers and producers and may do so for some time to come. So what’s the economic prognosis? this column argues that expectations data for the US suggest the country is entering recession about now.

Ruo Shangguan, Jed DeVaro, Hideo Owan, 18 September 2021

It has been argued that when workers are already working long weeks, adding more hours can reduce productivity. This column tests this argument using evidence from Japan. The authors find that long working hours of key team members harm team productivity. In contrast, shorter hours cause the opposite effect, perhaps because workers recover from fatigue and arrive for work with increased energy and focus.

John Duca, John Muellbauer, Anthony Murphy, 13 September 2021

Research on house price cycles and their interactions with the economy has burgeoned since the Global Financial Crisis. This column draws five lessons from a recent comprehensive survey. It argues that conventional theories of house price dynamics are misleading. Shifts in credit conditions, together with differences in housing supply response across cities, regions and countries, account for much of the heterogeneity of house price outcomes. Finally, increased demand for space and unprecedented policy interventions together explain the very different house price experience in the pandemic compared with the Global Financial Crisis.

Emanuel Moench, Tobias Stein, 12 September 2021

The US equity market follows a V-shaped pattern around recessions, with sharply negative returns heading into recessions and a strong recovery as the recession unfolds. In addition, recessions are usually preceded by an inverted yield curve. This column shows that the term spread is a robust predictor of recessions, and that model-implied recession probability forecasts do a good job of predicting the equity premium out-of-sample. An investment strategy based on the recession probability model could be used to time the equity market and lead to higher and less volatile profits over time.

Roberta Cardani, Olga Croitorov, Fabio Di Dio, Lorenzo Frattarolo, Massimo Giovannini, Stefan Hohberger, Philipp Pfeiffer, Marco Ratto, Lukas Vogel, 08 September 2021

The COVID-19 recession differs strongly from past crises in recent history. This column summarises the integration of key economic features of the pandemic into the European Commission’s estimated DSGE model. Shock decompositions highlight the dominant role of ‘lockdown shocks’ (‘forced savings’, labour hoarding) for explaining the quarterly pattern of real GDP growth in 2020, complemented by negative contributions from foreign and investment demand notably in 2020q2 and a negative impact of persistently higher (precautionary) savings. The inflation response has been modest given the severity of the recession.

Elena Bobeica, Benny Hartwig, Christiane Nickel, 20 August 2021

The initially muted reaction of euro area inflation to the recent recession suggests that the Phillips curve is flat or may have flattened during the pandemic. This column argues that the assessment of the Phillips curve has become more complicated due to numerous confounding factors. It discusses evidence that underlying inflationary pressures have been dampened by the build-up of slack, and that models accounting for tail events reveal more stable Phillips curve parameters. Despite the many confounding factors, it seems that the Phillips curve is still at play – even if it is hard to pin down precisely.

John Bluedorn, Francesca Caselli, Niels-Jakob Hansen, Ippei Shibata, Marina M. Tavares, 30 April 2021

Early evidence from the COVID-19 recession suggested that women’s employment rates were falling disproportionately, portending a possible ‘she-cession’. Drawing on quarterly data from 38 advanced and emerging market economies, this column documents the extent and persistence of pandemic-induced she-cessions and uncovers significant heterogeneity across countries. In two-thirds of the countries studied, women’s employment rates declined more than men’s, but the differences were short-lived – lasting only a quarter or two on average – and strongly correlated to specific sectors of the economy.

George Alogoskoufis, 23 February 2021

Greece experienced a deep recession in 2020, and pandemic relief measures have led to further increases in its exorbitantly high public debt. This column outlines three potential methods for dealing with increasing debt after the crisis: (1) increases in taxation/reductions of government spending, (2) debt restructuring and (partial) debt write-offs, or (3) a policy of ‘gradual adjustment’ in which economic growth helps the debt burden shrink relative to GDP over time. The precise policy mix will involve significant coordination among euro area countries, but Greece must also implement domestic reforms to facilitate a dynamic and sustainable recovery. 

Kristina Bluwstein, Michał Brzoza-Brzezina, Paolo Gelain, Marcin Kolasa, 07 December 2020

Transmission of monetary policy depends to a large extent on the phase of the housing cycle. This is because residential property prices are important determinants of banks’ willingness to lend. This column presents analysis for the US which shows that in the mature phase of the housing market boom, or immediately after a bust began, the effects of a monetary expansion were smaller than they were earlier in the housing cycle. This is relevant for central banks which are considering responding to the Covid-19 pandemic by easing monetary policy during a period of relatively high house prices.

Francesco Furlanetto, Ørjan Robstad, Pål Ulvedal, Antoine Lepetit, 09 November 2020

Modern macroeconomic models imply that demand factors have only a small transitory effect, if any, on the productive capacity of the economy. By extending the econometric framework proposed by Blanchard and Quah, this column enables fluctuations in aggregate demand to have a long-run impact on the productive capacity through hysteresis effects. It finds that these demand shocks are quantitatively important in the US, in particular if the Great Recession is included in the sample. More specifically, demand-driven recessions lead to a persistent decline in employment and investment but leave labour productivity largely unaffected.

Thiess Buettner, Boryana Madzharova, 27 October 2020

Facing the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world are considering providing a fiscal stimulus. A potentially powerful instrument to do so is a broad-based consumption tax such as VAT. This column argues that changes in VAT may have some effect in stimulating spending on certain consumer durable goods such as household appliances. However, these effects may be heterogenous across different product types and the timing and perceived credibility of the announcements are also important factors for policymakers to consider.

Alexander Chudik, Kamiar Mohaddes, M. Hashem Pesaran, Mehdi Raissi, Alessandro Rebucci, 19 October 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in its global reach and impact, posing formidable challenges to policymakers and to the empirical analysis of its direct and indirect effects within the interconnected global economy. This column uses a ‘threshold-augmented multi-country econometric model’ to help quantify the impact of the Covid-19 shock along several dimensions. The results of the analysis show that the global recession will be long lasting, with no country escaping its impact regardless of their mitigation strategy. These findings call for a coordinated multi-country policy response to the pandemic.

Titan Alon, Matthias Doepke, Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, Michèle Tertilt, 22 September 2020

Unlike any other modern recession, the downturn triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has created larger employment losses for women than for men. Based on data from all US recessions since 1949, this column shows that the 2020 recession deviates most sharply from the historical norm in its disparate gender impact. The fact that job losses are much higher for women not only matters for gender equality, but will also reduce families’ ability to offset income losses, producing a deeper and more persistent recession.

Reint Gropp, Steven Ongena, Jörg Rocholl, Vahid Saadi, 07 August 2020

Recessions are periods of low opportunity costs for time and resources, and hence can facilitate a productivity-enhancing reallocation of resources and improve productivity growth. However, recessions can also slow productivity growth by intensifying credit frictions, for instance, through the accumulation of legacy assets in the banking sector. This column investigates the interaction between these two channels in the recent banking crisis and shows that US regions with more restructuring of inefficient banks during the post-Global Crisis recession experienced higher productivity growth in the real sector in subsequent years.

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. 

Marco Le Moglie, Giuseppe Sorrenti, 01 August 2020

Criminal organisations invest vast sums of money within the legal economies of many countries worldwide. These investments provide criminal organisations with a powerful tool to raise forms of social consensus in some portions of the population. This column provides a characterisation of organised crime’s investment in Italy’s legal economy, a country historically plagued by the presence of criminal groups. The results indicate that during periods of economic and social downturn, organised crime may capitalise on the weaknesses of the institutional response to the crisis, consolidating and possibly expanding, its role as an investor in the legal economy.

Ethan Ilzetzki, 06 July 2020

The UK economy is suffering its worst recession in centuries, with national income declining and unemployment rising at unprecedented rates. This column reports on the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, which reveals that despite this worrisome news, the panel is optimistic that the UK economy will recover to its pre-pandemic trend within five years or less, no worse than past UK recessions. Panellists emphasised that these predictions depend on the government effectively containing the spread of the virus and not reverting to austerity policies following the pandemic. The panel was split on the biggest risks to the pace of recovery, with firms’ productive capacity, scarring effects of unemployment, and a slow demand recovery cited as prominent concerns. 

Aida Caldera, Shashwat Koirala, 30 June 2020

International cooperation amplifies individual countries’ efforts; in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, international cooperation is not only useful, but indispensable. This column discusses eight priorities to strengthen international cooperation against COVID-19, both in the short term for crisis response, and to facilitate an inclusive and sustainable recovery. In the short run, cooperation between governments is needed to curb the pandemic and expedite exit from the crisis. In the medium and long run, internationally coordinated policies can facilitate recovery and the rebuilding of socioeconomic systems in inclusive and sustainable ways and help prepare for future risks and pandemics.

Stefano Federico, Fadi Hassan, Veronica Rappoport, 25 June 2020

In a period where the backlash against trade and globalisation is at historical high point, it is crucial to understand the frictions that prevent a full realisation of the gains from trade. This column takes evidence from Italy and contributes to the debate by identifying a novel channel: the endogenous funding constraint of banks whose loan portfolios are affected negatively by the liberalisation. There are spillovers between ‘losers’ and ‘winners’ from trade that operate through banks, which hinder the reallocation of resources towards firms that should actually expand after the liberalisation.

Sabrina Howell, Josh Lerner, Ramana Nanda, Richard Townsend, 14 May 2020

Governments worldwide have taken steps to bolster their venture capital sectors in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This column questions whether venture-backed innovation is particularly vulnerable to economic downturns, and finds that early-stage venture investment falls sharply during recessions. The quantity and quality of venture-backed innovation declines particularly for early-stage firms, underscoring the concerns that motivate such policy initiatives. Still, questions remain about the optimal design and public return of these expenditures.

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