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October 10, 2005

Macroeconomic Oil Shock in Progress?

Jim Hamilton says: maybe.

Econbrowser: Macro effects of oil shocks-- what should we be looking for next? : If we thought of measuring %u03B1 by the dollar value of U.S. crude oil expenditures as a fraction of GDP, we'd come up with a value below 4%, meaning that a 10% reduction in oil supplies should result in only a 0.4% drop in real GDP.... [Looking at] the 5 most dramatic historical oil supply disruptions along with the magnitude of the decline in U.S. real GDP that we observed in the U.S. between the oil shock and the trough of the subsequent recession, typically an interval of a little over a year... [suggests] an effect on GDP that is an order of magnitude larger than the above calculation....

My own interpretation is that energy disruptions only start to matter a great deal for the economy when utilization rates of other factors of production besides energy are observed to adjust. For example, in deciding to cancel flights, the airline is not just using less energy but also likely laying off workers. A typical pattern in the above episodes was that consumers suddenly became very apprehensive following the supply disruptions, postponing big ticket purchases such as automobiles. As automobile sales declined and workers were laid off in autos and the industries that sell to the auto makers, further cutbacks in spending by those affected led the economy into recession.

So where do we stand right now? In response to the rapid run-up in gasoline prices in August and the devastation from Katrina, the University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment fell from 96.5 in July to 76.9 in September. Consumption spending fell 0.5% in August, with sales of many SUV's down 50% in September compared with the year earlier... U.S. nonfarm payroll employment fell by 35,000 jobs in September. Given that we'd normally expect to see a monthly increase in employment of 150,000 jobs, the September figure amounts to 185,000 jobs lost... about 1/4 of a recession-inducing employment shock....

The key question now is very much the same one I raised a month ago, namely, how the Katrina-induced unemployment will interact with the other macroeconomic disruptions.... We'll have a much better view of this in another month. The key indicators that I'll be watching for are further declines in consumer sentiment and spending, the timing and magnitude of the layoffs in auto- and airline- related industries, whether investment or export spending can take the place of reduced consumption, and whether house prices and construction join in with the other negatives.

Posted by DeLong at October 10, 2005 07:18 PM