Fed’s Powell: Our Fiscal Path Is UnsustainableAdvisor Perspectives
Add Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to the roster of deficit hawks. In a widely followed speech, he claimed that the country’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.” But Powell still believes the Fed’s monetary policy is working, and that low inflation and unemployment will continue.
We remain in “extraordinary times,” and these favorable conditions are likely to persist, he said.
“The economy is strong, unemployment is near 50-year lows, and inflation is roughly at our 2% objective,” Powell said. The baseline outlook of forecasters inside and outside the Fed is for more of the same, he said.
Powell took office as chairman of the Federal Reserve in February 2018, following his tenure as chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). He spoke at the NABE 60th Annual Meeting in Boston on September 30, you can access a copy of his remarks here.
His talk focused on the Fed’s ongoing efforts to promote maximum employment and stable prices during this period of low inflation and low unemployment.
I will explain why Powell claims the country is on an unsustainable fiscal path, but first let’s look at his analysis of current economic conditions.
Powell: The economy looks very good
“The unemployment rate stands at 3.9%, near a 20-year low,” Powell said. “Inflation is currently running near the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) objective of 2%.”
“I am pleased to say that, by these measures, the economy looks very good,” he said.
The graph below shows the unemployment (in blue) and inflation (in dotted-red) rates since 1960.
According to Powell, these two top-line statistics signal a positive view that is further supported by data on jobs and prices. “Many forecasters are predicting that these favorable conditions are likely to continue,” he said.
He said that he was asked whether these forecasts are too good to be true, which was “a reasonable question.”
Since 1950, the U.S. economy has never experienced both low inflation and low unemployment for such an extended time. This has some analysts asking “Is the Phillips curve dead?”
The Phillips curve is an economic model that holds that unemployment and inflation are inversely related. Low unemployment tends to push up wages, leading to rising labor costs, which feeds price inflation for consumers. The more that changes in labor market slack impacts inflation levels, the steeper the Phillips curve.
“I do not see it as likely that the Phillips curve is dead, or that it will soon exact revenge,” he said.
What is more likely, according to Powell, is that “better monetary policy has played a central role” over the last few decades. This has greatly reduced, but not eliminated, the effects that tight labor markets have on inflation.
The graph below shows the relationship between labor market slack (in blue) and core inflation (in dotted-red) since 1960.
Read the full article here by Marianne Brunet, Advisor Perspectives