Yesterday’s post analyzed the drivers of the surge in inflation over the course of 2021 through the lens of the New York Fed DSGE model. In today’s post, we use the model to study how alternative monetary policy strategies might contribute to bringing inflation back down to 2 percent. Our main finding is that there is no monetary silver bullet. Due to a flat Phillips curve—a well–documented feature of the economic environment of the last three decades—monetary policy can only achieve faster disinflation at a considerable cost in terms of forgone economic activity. This is true regardless of the systematic approach followed by the central bank in the model to pursue its objective.
After a sharp decline in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation rebounded in the second half of 2020 and surged through 2021. This post analyzes the drivers of these developments through the lens of the New York Fed DSGE model. Its main finding is that the recent rise in inflation is mostly accounted for by a large cost-push shock that occurred in the second quarter of 2021 and whose inflationary effects persist today. Based on the model’s reading of historical data, this shock is expected to fade gradually over the course of 2022, returning quarterly inflation to close to 2 percent only in mid-2023.
U.S. inflation used to rise during economic booms, as businesses charged higher prices to cope with increases in wages and other costs. When the economy cooled and joblessness rose, inflation declined. This pattern changed around 1990. Since then, U.S. inflation has been remarkably stable, even though economic activity and unemployment have continued to fluctuate. For example, during the Great Recession unemployment reached 10 percent, but inflation barely dipped below 1 percent. More recently, even with unemployment as low as 3.5 percent, inflation remained stuck under 2 percent. What explains the emergence of this disconnect between inflation and unemployment? This is the question we address in “What’s Up with the Phillips Curve?,” published recently in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.
Indicators of labor market slack enable economists to judge pressures on wages and prices.
Thomas Klitgaard and Richard Peck
Economists often model inflation as dependent on inflation expectations and the level of economic slack, with changes in expectations or slack leading to changes in the inflation rate. The global slowdown and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis caused the greatest divergence in unemployment rates among euro area member countries since the monetary union was founded in 1999. The pronounced differences in economic performances of euro area countries since 2008 should have led to significant differences in price behavior. That turned out to be the case, with a strong correlation evident between disinflation and labor market deterioration in euro area countries