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135 posts on "Inflation"
July 16, 2024

What Was Up with Grocery Prices?

Photo of groceries including peppers, broccoli, lemons and eggs, on a kitchen table in a reusable shopping bag.

The consumer price index for groceries has risen more than the overall price index since the start of the pandemic, with a particularly large jump in 2022. In looking for explanations, a starting place is the behavior of raw commodity prices, which surged from early 2021 to mid-2022. In addition, wages for low-paid grocery workers have gone up faster than wages for the workforce as a whole. Finally, even though profit margins for grocery stores have gone up, the increase appears to be only a small contributor to the rise in food prices relative to the increase in their operating costs. This analysis suggests that the significant moderation in food inflation since the start of 2023 is due to still-high wage inflation for grocery workers being offset by the retreat in commodity prices.  

Posted at 7:00 am in Inflation | Permalink | Comments (3)
July 3, 2024

On the Distributional Consequences of Responding Aggressively to Inflation

decorative photo: curled up shopping receipt with the word price at that top.

This post discusses the distributional consequences of an aggressive policy response to inflation using a Heterogeneous Agent New Keynesian (HANK) model. We find that, when facing demand shocks, stabilizing inflation and real activity go hand in hand, with very large benefits for households at the bottom of the wealth distribution. The converse is true however when facing supply shocks: stabilizing inflation makes real outcomes more volatile, especially for poorer households. We conclude that distributional considerations make it much more important for policy to take into account the tradeoffs between stabilizing inflation and economic activity. This is because the optimal policy response depends very strongly on whether these tradeoffs are present (that is, when the economy is facing supply shocks) or absent (when the economy is facing demand shocks).  

July 2, 2024

On the Distributional Effects of Inflation and Inflation Stabilization

decorative photo: curled up shopping receipt with the word price at that top.

This post and the next discuss the distributional effects of inflation and inflation stabilization through the lenses of a theoretical model—a Heterogeneous Agent New Keynesian (HANK) model. This model combines the features of New Keynesian models that have been the workhorse for monetary policy analysis since the work of Woodford (2003) with inequality in wealth and income at the household level following the seminal contribution of Kaplan, Moll, and Violante (2018). We find that while inflation hurts everyone, it hurts the poor in particular. When the source of inflation is a supply shock, fighting inflation aggressively hurts the poor even more, however, while the opposite is true for demand shocks, as discussed in the companion post.

June 24, 2024

Deciphering the Disinflation Process

Photo: stacked shipping containers with a few worked in hard hats walking along side.

U.S. inflation surged in the early post-COVID period, driven by several economic shocks such as supply chain disruptions and labor supply constraints. Following its peak at 6.6 percent in September 2022, core consumer price index (CPI) inflation has come down rapidly over the last two years, falling to 3.6 percent recently. What explains the rapid shifts in U.S. inflation dynamics? In a recent paper, we show that the interaction between supply chain pressures and labor market tightness amplified the inflation surge in 2021. In this post, we argue that these same forces that drove the nonlinear rise in inflation have worked in reverse since late 2022, accelerating the disinflationary process. The current episode contrasts with periods where the economy was hit by shocks to either imported inputs or to labor alone.

Posted at 7:00 am in Inflation, Supply Chain | Permalink | Comments (1)
May 16, 2024

Is the Recent Inflationary Spike a Global Phenomenon?  

Photo: Globe on a graph

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation rose almost simultaneously in most economies around the world. After peaking in mid-2022, inflation then went into decline—a fall that was just as universal as the initial rise. In this post, we explore the interrelation of inflation dynamics across OECD countries by constructing a measure of the persistence of global inflation. We then study the extent to which the persistence of global inflation reflects broad-based swings, as opposed to idiosyncratic country-level movements. Our main finding is that the spike and subsequent moderation in global inflation in the post-pandemic period were driven by persistent movements. When we look at measures of inflation that include food and energy prices, most of the persistence appears to be broad-based, suggesting that international oil and commodity prices played an important role in global inflation dynamics. Excluding food and energy prices in the analysis still shows a broad-based persistence, although with a substantial increase in the role of country-specific factors.  

Posted at 7:00 am in Inflation | Permalink
May 15, 2024

Do Unexpected Inflationary Shocks Raise Workers’ Wages?

Photo: two construction workers working on a new building wearing hard hats.

The past year’s steady decline in nominal wage growth now appears in danger of stalling. Given ongoing uncertainty in Ukraine and the Middle East, this seems an opportune moment to revisit the conventional wisdom about the relationship between inflation and wages: if an unexpected increase in energy costs drives up the cost of living, will workers demand higher wages, reversing the recent moderation in wage growth? In new work with Justin Bloesch and Seung Joo Lee examining those concerns, our analysis shows that the pass-through of such inflationary shocks to wages is weak. 

Posted at 7:00 am in Inflation | Permalink
March 7, 2024

Will the Moderation in Wage Growth Continue?  

Photo of women in an electronics Factory Worker in Blue Work Coat and Protective Glasses is Assembling Smartphones with Screwdriver. High Tech Factory Facility with more Employees in the Background.

Wage growth has moderated notably following its post-pandemic surge, but it remains strong compared to the wage growth prevailing during the low-inflation pre-COVID years. Will the moderation continue, or will it stall? And what does it say about the current state of the labor market? In this post, we use our own measure of wage growth persistence – called Trend Wage Inflation (TWIn in short) – to look at these questions. Our main finding is that, after a rapid decline from 7 percent at its peak in late 2021 to around 5 percent in early 2023, TWin has changed little in recent months, indicating that the moderation in nominal wage growth may have stalled. We also show that our measure of trend wage inflation and labor market tightness comove very closely. Hence, the recent behavior of TWIn is consistent with a still-tight labor market.  

Posted at 12:00 pm in Employment, Inflation, Labor Market | Permalink
March 5, 2024

Expectations and the Final Mile of Disinflation

Photo of a crowd of business people and others walking to work.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. economy experienced a swift recovery accompanied by a sharp rise in inflation. Inflation has been gradually declining since 2022 without a notable slowdown in the labor market. Nonetheless, inflation remains above the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target and the path of the so-called final mile remains uncertain, as emphasized by Chair Powell during his press conference in January. In this post, we examine the unemployment-inflation trade-off over the past few years through the lens of a New Keynesian Phillips curve, based on our recent paper. We also provide model-based forecasts for 2024 and 2025 under various labor market scenarios.

Posted at 9:00 am in Inflation | Permalink
March 4, 2024

Global Supply Chains and U.S. Import Price Inflation

decorative photo of several cargo ships in a harbor. One is moving out of port.

Inflation around the world increased dramatically with the reopening of economies following COVID-19. After reaching a peak of 11 percent in the second quarter of 2021, world trade prices dropped by more than five percentage points by the middle of 2023. U.S. import prices followed a similar pattern, albeit with a lower peak and a deeper trough. In a new study, we investigate what drove these price movements by using information on the prices charged for products shipped from fifty-two exporters to fifty-two importers, comprising more than twenty-five million trade flows. We uncover several patterns in the data: (i) From 2021:Q1 to 2022:Q2, almost all of the growth in U.S. import prices can be attributed to global factors, that is, trends present in most countries; (ii) at the end of 2022, U.S. import price inflation started to be driven by U.S. demand factors; (iii) in 2023, foreign suppliers to the U.S. market caught up with demand and account for the decline in import price inflation, with a significant role played by China. 

February 21, 2024

Businesses See Inflationary Pressures Moderating

Shortly after the recovery from the pandemic recession began, the U.S. economy entered a period of high inflation as surging demand, severe supply disruptions, and worker shortages combined to create large imbalances and inflationary pressures in the economy. More recently, however, inflationary pressures have been moderating. Indeed, the inflation rate as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) has come down from its recent peak of 9.1 percent in the summer of 2022 to 3.1 percent at the start of 2024. Have inflationary pressures also moderated for local businesses in the New York–Northern New Jersey region? The New York Fed’s February business surveys asked firms about increases in their costs and prices. Results indicate that the pace of increase in costs, wages, and prices have all slowed considerably over the past year. Moreover, firms in the region expect cost and price increases, as well as the overall inflation rate, to moderate further in the year ahead.

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