February 11, 2004

Alan Greenspan on Employment

From Greenspan's Humphrey-Hawkins testimony:

WSJ.com - Text of Greenspan's Testimony: Gross separations from employment, two-fifths of which have been involuntary, are about what would be expected from past cyclical experience, given the current pace of output growth. New hires and recalls from layoffs, however, are far below what historical experience indicates. To a surprising degree, firms seem able to continue identifying and implementing new efficiencies in their production processes and thus have found it possible so far to meet increasing orders without stepping up hiring.

In all likelihood, employment will begin to grow more quickly before long as output continues to expand. Productivity over the past few years has probably received a boost from the efforts of businesses to work off the stock of inefficiencies that had accumulated in the boom years. As those opportunities to enhance efficiency become scarcer and as managers become more confident in the durability of the expansion, firms will surely once again add to their payrolls.

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We must, as a consequence, remain alert to risks that could threaten the sustainability of the expansion. Besides the chronic concern about a sharp spike in oil or natural gas prices, a number of risks can be identified. Of particular importance to monetary policy makers is the possibility that our stance could become improperly calibrated to evolving economic developments.

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The fiscal issues that we face pose long-term challenges, but federal budget deficits could cause difficulties even in the relatively near term. Long-term interest rates reflect not only the balance between the current demand for, and current supply of, credit, they also incorporate markets' expectations of those balances in the future. As a consequence, should investors become significantly more doubtful that the Congress will take the necessary fiscal measures, an appreciable backup in long-term interest rates is possible as prospects for outsized federal demands on national saving become more apparent. Such a development could constrain investment and other interest-sensitive spending and thus undermine the private capital formation that is a key element in our economy's growth prospects. Addressing the federal budget deficit is even more important in view of the widening U.S. current account deficit...

Posted by DeLong at February 11, 2004 09:59 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

"New hires and recalls from layoffs, however, are far below what historical experience indicates. . . .In all likelihood, employment will begin to grow more quickly before long as output continues to expand." So says Al.

For a moment there, I thought perhaps Greenie had recognized the permanent strutural changes to the economy.

But Alas, it was not to be . . . It appears that both the Fed Chair and the entire council of economic advisors are deep in denial.

Not surprisingly, this is a consistent shortcoming of the present administration: recognizing change and responding to it in a creative or innovative way.

Of course, one cannot respond appropriately to problems if one fails to see them in the first place. I suspect that this administration -- like most of the traditional economists -- have simply failed to recognize what are very significant changes in the structure of the Global and U.S. economies. The most obvious manifestations of these structural changes are found in the new job creation data. The ressponse to this has been tortured rationalizations explaining the divergences between the household and establishment jobs surveys.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on February 11, 2004 11:04 AM

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I am not an economiist, so I don't know where these numbers come from. Pardon me if this is a dumb question. Is there any chance that the economic reports are falsely indicating a great rise in productivity; that instead companies are hiring people under the table, not reporting the jobs, and not paying payroll taxes? It seems that this would give the appearance of greater output per worker. Is it possible for the government to estimate such activity?

Posted by: Joseph on February 11, 2004 11:07 AM

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Greenspan must read this webcite. He told Congress that the Administration's employment forecast is feasible but that is based on his optimistic real GDP forecast and the presumption that productivity growth will be significantly below historical levels.

Posted by: Harold McClure on February 11, 2004 11:29 AM

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"Productivity over the past few years has probably received a boost from the efforts of businesses to work off the stock of inefficiencies that had accumulated in the boom years."

Um, wasn't Uncle Al the one back then telling us about the glorious productivity BENEFITS of the New Economy boom?

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