The U.S. labor force participation rate (LFPR) currently stands at 62.5 percent, 0.8 percentage point below its level in February 2020. This “participation gap” translates into 2.1 million workers out of the labor force. In this post, we evaluate three potential drivers of the gap: First, population aging from the baby boomers reaching retirement age puts downward pressure on participation. Second, the share of individuals of retirement age that are actually retired has risen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, long COVID and disability more generally may induce more people to leave the labor force. We find that nearly all of the participation gap can be explained by population aging, which caused a significant rise in the number of retirements. Higher retirement rates compared to pre-COVID have had only a modest effect, while disability has virtually no effect.
Annual CPI inflation reached 9.1 percent in June 2022, the highest reading since November 1981. The broad-based nature of the recent inflation readings has increased concerns that inflation may run above the Federal Reserve’s target for a longer period than anticipated. In this post we use detailed industry-level data to examine two prominent cost-push-based explanations for high inflation: rising import prices and higher labor costs. We find that the pass-through of wages and input prices to the U.S. Producer Price Index has grown during the pandemic. Both the large changes in these costs and a higher pass-through into domestic prices have contributed toward higher inflation.
There are around 180 currencies in the world, but only a very small number of them play an outsized role in international trade, finance, and central bank foreign exchange reserves. In the modern era, the U.S. dollar has a dominant international presence, followed to a lesser extent by the euro and a handful of other currencies. Although the use of specific currencies is remarkably stable over time, with the status of dominant currencies remaining unchanged over decades, there have been decisive shifts in the international monetary system over long horizons. For example, the British pound only lost its dominant currency status in the 1930s, well after Britain stopped being the leading world economy. In a new study, we show that the currency that is used in international trade transactions is an active firm-level decision rather than something that is just fixed. This finding raises the question of what factors could augment or reduce the U.S. dollar’s dominance in world trade.
A number of studies have documented that market concentration among U.S. firms has increased over the last decades, as large firms have grown more dominant. In a new study, we examine whether this rising domestic concentration means that large U.S. firms have more market power in the manufacturing sector. Our research argues that increasing foreign competition over the last few decades has in fact reduced U.S. firms’ market power in manufacturing.
Starting in early 2018, the U.S. government imposed tariffs on over $300 billion of U.S. imports from China, increasing the average tariff rate from 2.7 percent to 17.5 percent. Much of the escalation in tariffs occurred in the second and third quarters of 2019. In response, the Chinese government retaliated, increasing the average tariff applied on U.S. exports from 5.7 percent to 20.4 percent. Our new study finds that the trade war reduced U.S. investment growth by 0.3 percentage points by the end of 2019, and is expected to shave another 1.6 percentage points off of investment growth by the end of 2020. In this post, we review our study of the trade war’s effect on U.S. investment.