Category Archives: Economy

10 Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In

Source: Dan Burrows, Kiplinger, March 19, 2018

The most expensive U.S. cities are usually expensive for a reason. Residents pay higher living costs in exchange for favorable geography, climate, culture or economic prosperity — or all of the above. Of course, that doesn’t make the most expensive cities the “best” cities to live in, at least not for everyone, says Jennie Allison of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, a nonprofit research and policy group. …. To determine just how much the most expensive U.S. cities cost, we turned to the latest data from the Council for Community and Economic Research. Its Cost of Living Index measures prices in 269 urban areas for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services such as getting your hair done or going to a movie. Take a closer look at the 10 most expensive U.S. cities.

Recent stock market sell-off foreshadows a new Great Recession

Source: Steven Pressman, Robert H. Scott III, The Conversation, March 19, 2018

In early February, concerns about inflation and rising interest rates sent global financial markets into a frenzy, prompting the biggest single-day drop ever in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Stocks have since recovered some of their losses.

A similar episode occurred exactly 10 years earlier, though few may remember. In February 2008, the failure of an obscure market precipitated a similar selling frenzy. At the time, this sell-off went mostly unrecognized as a harbinger of something worse because the stock market quickly recovered.

Just as the world shouldn’t have been complacent in 2008, we shouldn’t rest easy today. Both events are proverbial dead canaries in a coal mine.

That’s because they have something else in common. Both stemmed from worries that rising borrowing costs would hurt debt-burdened consumers, the housing market and ultimately the U.S. economy.

Our soon-to-be-published research shows that the same problems that led to the biggest financial market meltdown since the Great Depression are alive and well today…..

Heat Rising

Source: Mark Zandi, Regional Financial Review, Volume 28 Number 6, February 2018
(subscription required)

The economy is strong and growing. And, with big deficit-financed tax cuts and government spending increases kicking in, growth will accelerate over the coming year. Unemployment appears headed into the low threes, close to the lowest jobless rate the nation has ever experienced. But this is unsustainable. The economy is likely to overheat, with wage and price pressures intensifying and interest rates rising. There will be heightened volatility in financial markets as investors are forced to adjust to the higher rates. Once the fiscal stimulus fades early in the next decade, the odds of a sharp slowing in growth are high. A recession is possible.

Would universal basic income sap the workforce?

Source: Futurity, February 26, 2018

Would universal basic income cause people to leave the workforce? New research suggests it would not. …. In a working paper, associate professor Damon Jones of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and assistant professor Ioana Marinescu of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice (formerly of the University of Chicago) examined the effect of unconditional cash transfers on labor markets using the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend—a payout from a diversified portfolio of invested oil reserve royalties, established in 1982. They concluded unconditional cash transfers had no significant effect on employment, yet it increased part-time work. ….

The Labor Market Impacts of Universal and Permanent Cash Transfers: Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund
Source: Damon Jones, Ioana Marinescu, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 24312, February 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
What are the effects of universal and permanent cash transfers on the labor market? Since 1982, all Alaskan residents have been entitled to a yearly cash dividend from the Alaska Permanent Fund. Using data from the Current Population Survey and a synthetic control method, we show that the dividend had no effect on employment, and increased part-time work by 1.8 percentage points (17 percent). Although theory and prior empirical research suggests that individual cash transfers decrease household labor supply, we interpret our results as evidence that general equilibrium effects of widespread and permanent transfers tend to offset this effect, at least on the extensive margin. Consistent with this story, we show suggestive evidence that tradable sectors experience employment reductions, while non-tradable sectors do not. Overall, our results suggest that a universal and permanent cash transfer does not significantly decrease aggregate employment.

10 Years Later: The Financial Crisis State by State

Source: Joe Valenti, Center for American Progress, February 22, 2018

…. In case members of Congress have forgotten what families dealt with during the financial crisis, Table 1 shows unemployment levels and bankruptcies, as well as the number of borrowers 90 days or more behind on their mortgages and credit cards in every state for 2009 and 2016, the most recent year all of these data are available. ….

The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation

Source: Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, February 2018

From the summary:
Among the more ambitious policies that have been proposed to address the problem of escalating student loan debt are various forms of debt cancellation. In this report, Scott Fullwiler, Research Associate Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum examine the likely macroeconomic impacts of a one-time, federally funded cancellation of all outstanding student debt.

The report analyzes households’ mounting reliance on debt to finance higher education, including the distributive implications of student debt and debt cancellation; describes the financial mechanics required to carry out the cancellation of debt held by the Department of Education (which makes up the vast majority of student loans outstanding) as well as privately owned student debt; and uses two macroeconometric models to provide a plausible range for the likely impacts of student debt cancellation on key economic variables over a 10-year horizon.

The authors find that cancellation would have a meaningful stimulus effect, characterized by greater economic activity as measured by GDP and employment, with only moderate effects on the federal budget deficit, interest rates, and inflation (while state budgets improve). These results suggest that policies like student debt cancellation can be a viable part of a needed reorientation of US higher education policy.

What’s the matter with Oklahoma?

Source: The Economist, January 30, 2018

Low teacher pay and severe budget cuts are driving schools to the brink. ….

Forty miles from Tulsa, sometimes along unpaved roads, sits Wagoner High School, with its 650 pupils, championship-calibre football team and show barn—a seemingly ordinary small-town school. But unlike most high schools, Wagoner is closed on Mondays. The reason, a severe reduction in state funds, has pushed 90 other school districts in Oklahoma to do the same. Teacher pay is the third-lowest in the country and has triggered a statewide shortage, as teachers flee to neighbouring states like Arkansas and Texas or to private schools. “Most of our teachers work second jobs,” says Darlene Adair, Wagoner’s principal. “A lot of them work at Walmart on nights and weekends, or in local restaurants.” Ms Adair hopes that Walmart does not offer her teachers a full-time job, which would be a pay rise for many.

The roots of the fiasco are not hard to determine. As in Oklahoma’s northern neighbour, Kansas, deep tax cuts have wrecked the state’s finances. During the shale boom, lawmakers gave a sweetheart deal to its oilmen, costing $470m in a single year, by slashing the gross production tax on horizontal drilling from 7% to 1%. North Dakota, by contrast, taxes production at 11.5%. The crash in global oil prices in 2014 did not help state coffers either. Oklahoma has also cut income taxes, first under Democrats desperate to maintain control over a state that was trending Republican, and then under Republicans, who swept to power anyway. Mary Fallin, the Republican governor, came to office pledging to eliminate the income tax altogether. Since 2008 general state funds for K-12 education in Oklahoma have been slashed by 28.2%—the biggest cut in the country. Property taxes, which might have made up the difference, are constitutionally limited….

….No fact embarrasses Oklahomans more, or repels prospective businesses more, than the number of cash-strapped districts that have gone to four-day weeks……

The False Choice Between Automation and Jobs

Source: James Manyika, Michael Spence, Harvard Business Review, February 5, 2018

….The catch is that adopting these technologies will disrupt the world of work. No less significant than the jobs that will be displaced are the jobs that will change—and those that will be created. New research by the McKinsey Global institute suggests that roughly 15% of the global workforce could be displaced by 2030 in a midpoint scenario, but that the jobs likely created will make up for those lost. There is an important proviso: that economies sustain high economic growth and dynamism, coupled with strong trends that will drive demand for work. Even so, between 75 million to 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030, depending on how quickly automation is adopted.

It is no small challenge. The jobs gained will require higher educational attainment and more advanced levels of communication and cognitive ability, as work requiring rote skills such as data processing or collection increasingly are taken over by machines. People will be augmented by increasingly capable machines acting as digital working partners and assistants, further requiring ongoing skills development and evolution. In advanced economies, which the research shows will be the most affected, downward pressure on middle-wage jobs will likely grow, exacerbating the already vexed issue of job and income polarization, although in emerging economies the balance between jobs lost and jobs gained looks to be more favorable in the short- to medium-run., and the net effect is likely to be an acceleration of growth in the middle class…..

What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages
Source: James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi, McKinsey Global Institute, Report, November 2017

The Economic Effects of Providing Legal Status to DREAMers

Source: Francesc Ortega, Ryan Edwards, Amy Hsin, IZA – Institute of Labor Economics, IZA DP No. 11281, January 2018

This study quantifies the economic effects of two major immigration reforms aimed at legalizing undocumented individuals that entered the United States as children and completed high school: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the DREAM Act. The former offers only temporary legal status to eligible individuals; the latter provides a track to legal permanent residence. Our analysis is based on a general-equilibrium model that allows for shifts in participation between work, college and non-employment. The model is calibrated to account for productivity differences across workers of different skills and documentation status, and a rich pattern of complementarities across different types of workers. We estimate DACA increased GDP by almost 0.02% (about $3.5 billion), or $7,454 per legalized worker. Passing the DREAM Act would increase GDP by around 0.08% (or $15.2 billion), which amounts to an average of $15,371 for each legalized worker. The larger effects of the DREAM Act stem from the expected larger take-up and the increased incentive to attend college among DREAMers with a high school degree. We also find substantial wage increases for individuals obtaining legal status, particularly for individuals that increase their educational attainment. Because of the small size of the DREAMer population, legalization entails negligible effects on the wages of US-born workers.

‘Dreamers’ could give US economy – and even American workers – a boost
Source: Amy Hsin, IZA Newsroom, January 24, 2018