Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fed's Tarullo: "Considerable uncertainty" about "how robust growth will be in 2010"

by Calculated Risk on 10/08/2009 05:40:00 PM

From Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo: In the Wake of the Crisis

Turning first to the economic outlook, let me begin by stating the obvious: After a period in which there seemed to be only two plausible scenarios--very bad and even worse--financial and economic conditions have steadied. ... As we closed out the third quarter last week, it was apparent that economic growth was back in positive territory. ...

This turnaround is certainly welcome, but it should not be overstated. Although we can expect positive growth to continue beyond the third quarter, economic activity remains relatively weak. The upturns in industrial production and residential investment, for example, follow startling declines in the first half of the year. Improvement is gradual and beginning from very low levels.

The employment situation continues to be dismal. While the pace of job losses has slowed from the extraordinary levels of early 2009, the economy has recently still been losing on average about a quarter of a million jobs each month. Hopes for a steady reduction in the pace of job losses were once again confounded last Friday with release of the September employment report, which showed net job declines well above the consensus expectation of economic forecasters. The unemployment rate has risen to 9.8 percent. ...

Indicators apart from the unemployment rate underscore the weakness of labor markets. The percentage of working-age people with jobs has fallen to a point not seen in a quarter century. Average hours worked have not increased through the spring and summer from what were, by historic standards, unusually low levels.The number of part-time workers who want full-time jobs jumped nearly 50 percent last fall and winter and has remained elevated since. The a>verage duration of unemployment has risen almost 10 weeks since the recession began, to more than six months.

The labor market conditions I have just described reflect the low level of resource utilization in the economy as a whole. In this context, with inflation expected to remain subdued for some time, the Federal Open Market Committee indicated after our meeting two weeks ago that exceptionally low interest rates are likely to be warranted for an extended period. Indeed, with the effects of the February stimulus package diminishing next year, bank lending that is still declining, and continued dysfunction in some parts of capital markets, there is considerable uncertainty as to how robust growth will be in 2010. At the same time, the unconventional policies pursued by the Federal Reserve in order to halt the crisis have produced levels and types of reserves that will eventually require use of the unconventional exit tools discussed on numerous occasions by Chairman Bernanke and Vice Chairman Kohn.

The coincidence of a weak economy and an unusually large balance sheet at the Federal Reserve will require some judgments by the Federal Open Market Committee of a sort for which there are not many historical precedents. Still, just as with conventional monetary policy, decisions on the timing and pace for removing accommodation should and will depend on our ongoing analysis and forecasts of all relevant economic factors.
emphasis added