Though some offices have re-opened as the pandemic has receded, many workers have continued to work from home. Recent survey data suggest that workers would like more remote-work days than firms want to supply—a pattern that was evident even before the pandemic. Why have firms been so reluctant to offer remote work? And what will the recent seismic shift in remote work mean for the economy?
Total debt balances grew by $148 billion in the first quarter of 2023, a modest increase after 2022’s record growth. Mortgages, the largest form of household debt, grew by only $121 billion, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. The increase was tempered by a sharp reduction in both purchase and refinance mortgage originations. The pandemic boom in purchase originations was driven by many factors – low mortgage rates, strong household balance sheets, and an increased demand for housing. Homeowners who refinanced in 2020 and 2021 benefitted from historically low interest rates and will be enjoying low financing costs for decades to come. These “rate refinance” borrowers have lowered their monthly mortgage payments, improving their cash flow, while other “cash-out” borrowers extracted equity from their real estate assets, making more cash available for consumption. Here, we explore the refi boom of 2020-21–who refinanced, who took out cash, and how much potential consumption support these transactions provided. In this analysis, as well as the Quarterly Report, we use our Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), which is based on anonymized credit reports from Equifax.
When COVID-19 first struck the U.S. in early 2020, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic. By early April, there was an unthinkable scale of suffering, with massive hospitalizations and roughly 800 fatalities per day, accounting for nearly half of the nationwide total. The rapid spread was facilitated by the city’s extraordinarily high population density and widespread use of mass transit. What followed was a quick and massive shutdown of restaurants, retail stores, personal services, offices, and more. And the shutdowns, of course, led to widespread job losses. Between February and May, one out of five jobs in the city vanished; in the restaurant industry, 70 percent of jobs were lost. Although the pandemic didn’t go away, the city’s economy has recovered steadily, aside from a brief but sharp setback in late 2020. By early 2023, New York had finally reversed just about all of the total job loss. In this post, we look at the contours of the city’s recovery as a possible guide to where we go from here.
The tri-state region’s economy was hit especially hard by the pandemic, but three years on, is close to recovering the jobs that were lost. Indeed, employment initially fell by 20 percent in New York City as the pandemic took hold, a significantly sharper decline than for the nation as a whole, and the rest of the region experienced similar declines, creating a much larger hole than in other parts of the country. Three years later, the recovery has been uneven: Recent job growth has been particularly strong in New York City, where employment remains just slightly below pre-pandemic levels, and in Northern New Jersey, which has more than recovered all of the jobs lost early in the pandemic. But it has been sluggish in downstate New York outside of New York City, and in upstate New York, and employment across the region has clearly not reached the level implied by pre-pandemic trends. A dearth of available workers remains a significant constraint on growth in the region, particularly in upstate New York, which had already been suffering from a lack of workers well before the pandemic began
In a January 2022 post, we first presented the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI), a parsimonious global measure designed to capture supply chain disruptions using a range of indicators. The spirit of our index was to isolate supply factors, such as shutdowns in response to the pandemic, that put pressure on the global supply chain. In this post, we describe an auxiliary index, the Net GSCPI, which differs from the GSCPI by not filtering out demand factors. This “net” index is meant to capture global supply chain stress from both the supply and demand sides. Our analysis documents that the net index is currently below its historical average, unlike the original index, due to both the easing of supply constraints and a contraction in global demand.
The Federal Reserve’s primary credit program—offered through its “discount window” (DW)—provides temporary short-term funding to fundamentally sound banks. Historically, loan activity has been low during normal times due to a variety of factors, including the DW’s status as a back-up source of liquidity with a relatively punitive interest rate, the stigma attached to DW borrowing from the central bank, and, since 2008, elevated levels of reserves in the banking system. However, beginning in 2022, DW borrowing under the primary credit program increased notably in comparison to past years. In this post, we examine the factors that may have contributed to this recent trend.
Currency values are important both for the real economy and the financial sector. When faced with currency market pressures, some central banks and finance ministries turn to foreign exchange intervention (FXI) in an effort to reduce realized currency depreciation, thus diminishing its economic and financial consequences. This post provides insights into how effective these interventions might be in limiting currency depreciation.
Racial and ethnic earnings disparities have been salient features of the U.S. economy for decades. Between the pandemic-driven recession in 2020 and the rising inflation since 2021, workers’ real and nominal earnings have seen rapid change. To get a sense of how recent economic conditions have affected earnings disparities, we examine real and nominal weekly earnings trends for Asian, Black, Hispanic, and white workers. We find that average real weekly earnings have been declining in the past year, but less so for Black and Hispanic workers than for white and Asian workers. Black and Hispanic workers have also experienced small increases in real earnings since the pre-pandemic period.
The sharp slowdown in China’s property sector has reignited debate over the country’s future role as a net provider of savings to the global economy. The debate revolves around whether a sustained decline in property investment will spur a long-term increase in China’s current account surplus, given the country’s high savings rate. However, China’s rapidly aging population presents opposing forces that complicate this story. The shift of a large share of its population from working life to retirement will reduce savings supply even as a shrinking labor force will reduce investment demand. In this post, we focus on the demographic part of the story and find that this force will exert considerable downward pressure on China’s current account surplus in coming years.
Recent research has linked climate change and socioeconomic inequality (see here, here, and here). But what are the effects of climate change on small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, which tend to be more resource-constrained and less resilient? In a series of two posts, we use the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS) to document small businesses’ experiences with natural disasters and how these experiences differ based on the race and ethnicity of business owners. This first post shows that small firms owned by people of color sustain losses from natural disasters at a disproportionately higher rate than other small businesses, and that these losses make up a larger portion of their total revenues. In the second post, we explore the ability of small firms to reopen and to obtain disaster relief funding in the aftermath of climate events.