No Victory Lap Yet: U.S. Wage Growth Elusive


stephan-danningerBy Stephan Danninger

The U.S. labor market seems to have finally healed. The unemployment rate has been below 5 percent for some time and job growth is steady. And more Americans are coming back to the labor market—in other words, labor participation is increasing. Yet, despite a bump-up in 2015, wage growth so far this year—compared to the 2000s—is still disappointingly low (see Chart 1). This is worrying because consumer spending, which makes up the majority of U.S. economic output, cannot continue at the current pace unless wages grow.  Continue reading

Tariffs Do More Harm Than Good at Home


maurice-obstfeld2By Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語(Japanese), Русский (Russian), Español (Spanish)

A longstanding challenge for the global economy is the possibility that some countries compete for export markets through artificially low prices. Political leaders and pundits sometimes propose import tariffs to offset the supposed price advantages and exert pressure for policy changes abroad. What proponents often fail to realize is that such tariff policies, while certainly hurting their targets, can also be very costly at home. And surprisingly, the self-inflicted harm can be substantial even when trade partners do not retaliate with tariffs of their own. Continue reading

An Argument for Paying Down Public Debt


By Vitor Gaspar and Julio Escolano

What should governments do about high public debt-to-GDP ratios?  This question is getting much-deserved attention. Let’s abstract from macroeconomic (business cycle) considerations and look at the issue purely from an optimal tax smoothing perspective—that is, weighing the cost and benefits of raising taxes to pay down debt. By doing so we decidedly do not engage in the current debate about the contribution that fiscal policy may make to demand management. Continue reading

The Euro Area Workforce is Aging, Costing Growth


By Shekhar Aiyar, Christian Ebeke, and Xiaobo Shao

Versions in Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

In parallel to the aging of the general population, the workforce in the euro area is also growing older. This could cause productivity growth to decline in the years ahead, raising another policy challenge for governments already dealing with legacies from the crisis such as high unemployment and debt.  Continue reading

The Overwhelming Case for a Carbon Tax in China


By Ian Parry and Philippe Wingender

Version in 中文 (Chinese)

A single policy could do it all for China. A carbon tax—an upstream tax on the carbon content of fossil fuel supply—could dramatically cut greenhouse gases, save millions of lives, soothe the government’s fiscal anxieties, and boost green growth. Continue reading

The Lowdown on U.S. Core Inflation


Yasser AbdihBy Yasser Abdih

There was a time when U.S. central bankers worried that inflation was too high, and they tried to bring it down. Now the opposite is true: the Federal Reserve is concerned that inflation has remained stubbornly low, and it’s trying to boost prices. The reason: persistently low inflation raises the risk that prices will actually start to decline, a dangerous condition known as deflation. That’s bad news because it makes people less willing to borrow and spend—anticipating lower prices, consumers will put off spending—and could also lead to a fall in wages. Continue reading

Rising Income Polarization in the United States


Ali Alichi-IMFBy Ali Alichi

Version in Español (Spanish)

The latest IMF review of the U.S. economy underscores the country’s resilience in the face of financial market volatility, a strong dollar, and subdued global demand. But the review also cites longer-term challenges to growth, including rising income polarization.

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