Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Wilbert van der Klaauw, and David Yun
According to today’s release of the New York Fed’s 2013:Q4 Household Debt and Credit Report, aggregate consumer debt increased by $241 billion in the fourth quarter, the largest quarter-to-quarter increase since 2007. More importantly, between 2012:Q4 and 2013:Q4, total household debt rose $180 billion, marking the first four-quarter increase in outstanding debt since 2008. As net household borrowing resumes, it is interesting to see who is driving these balance changes, and to compare some of today’s patterns with those of the boom period.
Puerto Rico’s economy has been in a protracted economic slump since 2006. If there were officially designated recessions for the Commonwealth, it probably would have been in one for the better part of these past seven years. Real GNP had fallen 12 percent before finally leveling off in 2012. But the economic measure most widely relied upon to gauge the island’s economy—because the data are monthly and timely—is payroll employment. Between early 2006 and the first half of 2011, this measure fell by a similar amount (13 percent); it then started to recover gradually in late 2011 and into the first part of 2012. But late in the year it began to nosedive again, reaching new lows in mid-2013—Or did it? More complete tabulations of employment presage upward revisions to Puerto Rico’s payroll job count, suggesting that current employment (and thus economic) conditions are not as gloomy as they appear, based on currently reported data.
How tight is the labor market? The unemployment rate is down substantially from its October 2009 peak, but two-thirds of the decline is due to people dropping out of the labor force. In addition, an unusually large share of the unemployed has been out of work for twenty-seven weeks or more—the long-duration unemployed. These statistics suggest that there remains a great deal of slack in U.S. labor markets, which should be putting downward pressure on labor compensation. Instead, compensation growth has moved modestly higher since 2009. A potential explanation is that the long-duration unemployed exert less influence on wages than the short-duration unemployed, a hypothesis we examine here. While preliminary, our findings provide some support for this hypothesis and show that models taking into account unemployment duration produce more accurate forecasts of compensation growth.
Banks’ practice of tying loan interest rates to borrowers’ credit default swap (CDS) spreads constitutes one of the most recent financial innovations. In this post, I discuss evidence from a research project, undertaken with Ivan Ivanov and Thu Vo, showing that this practice has lowered the cost of bank credit. I also discuss some potential drawbacks of this innovation.
During the economic boom and credit expansion that followed the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), Berlin was the equivalent of an emerging market, Amsterdam’s merchant bankers were the primary sources of credit, and the Hamburg banking houses served as intermediaries between the two. But some Amsterdam merchant bankers were leveraged far beyond their capacity. When a speculative grain deal went bad, the banks discovered that there were limits to how much risk could be effectively hedged. In this issue of Crisis Chronicles, we review how “fire sales” drove systemic risk in funding markets some 250 years ago and explain why this could still happen in today’s tri-party repo market.
Euro area growth has been stalled since 2010, mired in the sovereign debt crisis, while the United States has managed a slow but steady recovery following the Great Recession. Euro area and U.S. labor markets reflect these differing growth paths. While unemployment rates in the euro area and the United States were both around 10 percent in 2010, the unemployment rate in the euro area has since increased to 12.0 percent, and the U.S. rate has fallen to 6.7 percent. However, the outperformance of the U.S. labor market as measured by unemployment rates is overstated. Employment relative to the population has declined in the euro area, but the divergence of this measure from that of the United States is more modest than suggested by unemployment rates. The difference is that, unlike in the United States, the share of women in the euro area labor force is increasing, and that development accounts for roughly half of the current gap between unemployment rates in the two economies.
The unemployment rate is a popular measure of the condition of the labor market. With the Great Recession, the unemployment rate increased from a low of 4.4 percent in March 2007 to a peak of 10.0 percent in October 2009. As the economy recovered and growth resumed, the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent. What other measures are useful to supplement our understanding of the degree of the labor market recovery?
In the 1600s, a stream flowed near the land now occupied by
the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, running all the way to the East River. At
that time, maidens followed a footpath to the stream’s banks to wash laundry in
its fresh water, earning the path the name Maidens’ Path (or in Dutch—Maagde Paatje). When the English arrived
in 1664, the name of the street changed to Maiden Lane. As New York City
expanded beyond its downtown origins over the years, city planners covered over
the stream—but the street’s name stuck.
Today, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York begins releasing its monthly survey of regional business activity, called the Business Leaders Survey. This survey is a close cousin of our Empire State Manufacturing Survey, with some differences. The Business Leaders Survey covers the service sector rather than the manufacturing sector, and its respondents come from New York, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut, instead of just New York State. This new monthly release will provide another timely regional indicator to help gauge both local and national business cycles, and it will be available well before hard economic data on the region from other sources become available. In this post, we show that data from the survey, which have been collected monthly since 2004, provided some early signals about the most recent recession and recovery, at both the national and regional levels. The January 2014 survey points to continued modest growth in service-sector activity in the region, coupled with increasingly widespread optimism about future conditions.