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Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) is hosting the spring meeting of its Economic Advisory Panel (EAP). As has become the custom at this meeting, the FRBNY staff is presenting its forecast for U.S. real GDP growth, the unemployment rate, and inflation. Following the presentation, members of the EAP, which consists of leading economists in academia and the private sector, are asked to critique the staff forecast. Such feedback helps the staff evaluate the assumptions and reasoning underlying its forecast as well as the forecast’s key risks. The feedback is also an important part of the forecasting process because it informs the staff’s discussions with New York Fed President William Dudley about economic conditions. In that same spirit, we are sharing a summary of the staff forecast in this post. For more detail, see the FRBNY Staff Outlook Presentation from the EAP meeting on our website.
Hunter Clark, Maxim Pinkovskiy, and Xavier Sala-i-Martin
For analysts of the Chinese economy, questions about the accuracy of the country’s official GDP data are a frequent source of angst, leading many to seek guidance from alternative indicators. These nonofficial gauges often suggest Beijing’s growth figures are exaggerated, but that conclusion is not supported by our analysis, which draws upon satellite measurements of the intensity of China’s nighttime light emissions—a good proxy for GDP growth that is presumably not subject to whatever measurement errors may affect the country’s official economic statistics.
Mary Amiti, Caroline Freund, and Tyler Bodine-Smith
Supply chains have become increasingly interlinked across the U.S.-Mexico border. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), allowing tariff-free commerce between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, has facilitated this integration. Some critics of NAFTA are concerned about the bilateral trade deficit and have proposed stricter rules of origin (ROO), which would make it more cumbersome for firms to access the zero tariff rates they are entitled to with NAFTA. We argue that measures that make it costlier for U.S. firms to import will also hurt U.S. exports because much of U.S.-Mexican trade is part of global supply chains.
An underappreciated benefit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the protection it offers U.S. exporters from extreme tariff uncertainty in Mexico. U.S. exporters have not only gained greater tariff preferences under NAFTA than Mexican exporters gained in the United States, they have also been exempt from potential tariff hikes facing other exporters. Mexico’s bound tariff rates—the maximum tariff rate a World Trade Organization (WTO) member can impose—are very high and far exceed U.S. bound rates. Without NAFTA, there is a risk that tariffs on U.S. exports to Mexico could reach their bound rates, which average 35 percent. In contrast, U.S. bound rates average only 4 percent. At the very least, U.S. exporters would be subject to a higher level of policy uncertainty without the trade agreement.
China has been an exporting juggernaut for decades. In the United States, this has meant a dramatic increase in China’s share of imports and a ballooning bilateral trade deficit. Gaining sales in the United States at the expense of other countries, Chinese goods rose from only 2 percent of U.S. non-oil imports in 1990 to 8 percent in 2000 and 17 percent in 2010. But these steady gains in U.S. import share have stopped in recent years, with China even losing ground to other countries in some categories of goods. One explanation for this shift is that Chinese firms now have to directly compete against manufacturers in high-skill developed countries while also fending off competition from lower-wage countries, such as Vietnam. This inability to make additional gains at the expense of other countries means that exports don’t contribute as much to China’s overall growth as they used to.
The global financial crisis has put financial stability risks—and the potential role of macroprudential policies in addressing them—at the forefront of policy debates. The challenge for macroeconomists is to develop new models that are consistent with the data while being able to capture the highly nonlinear nature of crisis episodes. In this post, we evaluate the impact of a macroprudential policy that has the government tilt incentives for banks to encourage them to build up their equity positions. The government has a role since individual banks do not internalize the systemic benefit of having more bank equity. Our model allows for an evaluation of the tradeoff between the size of such incentives and the probability of a future financial crisis.
R. Jason Faberman, Andreas I. Mueller, Ayşegül Şahin, Rachel Schuh, and Giorgio Topa
Most people find themselves looking for work at some point in their adult lives. But what brings employers and job seekers together? And does searching for a new job while unemployed lead to different outcomes than searching while employed? Little is known about the job search process for unemployed workers. Even less is known about the search process and outcomes for currently employed workers—so‑called “on‑the‑job” search. This Liberty Street Economics post aims to shed light on these questions and to draw some conclusions for our understanding of labor market dynamics more generally.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Nicole Gorton, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Evidence overwhelmingly shows that the average earnings premium to having a college education is high and has risen over the past several decades, in part because of a decline in real average earnings for those without a college degree. In addition to high private returns, there are substantial social returns to having a well-educated citizenry and workforce. A new development that may have important longer-term implications for education investment and for the broader economy is a significant change in the financing of higher education. State funding has declined markedly over the past two decades, a trend that has coincided with a significant increase in college tuition. To cover the rising cost of college, students and families have increased their reliance on student loans, funding a greater share of an increasing overall college cost. While the federal student loan program has undoubtedly helped mitigate the impact of higher costs on college access and enrollment, more and more students now leave college with higher amounts of debt. Given these trends, it is critical to understand whether holding student debt has affected young Americans’ later life outcomes, such as homeownership.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
An examination of recent developments in household borrowing was the focus of a press briefing held this morning at the New York Fed. President William Dudley offered opening remarks on the latest developments, then Bank economists briefed the press on their analysis of household indebtedness, placing a spotlight on student loans. Their research is based on the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel—which is based on Equifax credit report data—as well as data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The presentation contained three components: (1) an analysis how aggregate household debt today differs from its 2008 peak, (2) new evidence on student debt growth, delinquency and repayment, and (3) an investigation of the relationship between homeownership, student debt, and educational attainment.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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