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 “No Victory Lap Yet: U.S. Wage Growth Elusive” »
(Versions in: Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Slovenian)
The opening up of Eastern Europe to the rest of the world in the early 1990s brought about tremendous benefits. The inflow of capital and innovation has led to better institutions, better economic management, and higher efficiency. On the flip side, it has also led to sizable and persistent outflow of people.
Version in Deutsch (German)
Germany, a champion of structural reform prescriptions within the European Union, needs a large dose of the same medicine at home, too. Beyond public investment in transport and telecommunications, and more competition in services, dealing with an aging population needs urgent attention. With the right policies, Germany can bring more people into the workforce—and for longer—to counter the demographic trend, argues a recent study accompanying the regular health check of the German economy by the International Monetary Fund.
Version in 中文 (Chinese)
China’s high and rising corporate debt problem and how best to address it has received much attention recently. Indeed, corporate debt in China has risen to about 160 percent of GDP, which is very high compared to other, especially developing, countries.
The IMF’s April 2016 Global Financial Stability Report looked at the issue from the viewpoint of commercial banks and resulting vulnerabilities. Its analysis suggests that the share of commercial banks’ loans to corporates that could potentially be at risk has been rising fast and, although currently at a manageable level, needs to be addressed with urgency in order to avoid serious problems down the road. Indeed the success in addressing this issue is important for China’s economic transition and, given its size and growing global integration, the world’s economy at large.
(Version in 日本語)
Take a walk in Tokyo, and you will see the sign スタッフ募集中, or “Staff Wanted”, outside many restaurants and convenience stores. These businesses often find it impossible to recruit the workers they need. According to recent statistics, for each job seeker in Japan applying to work as a waiter, there are more than three available positions. Home helpers and long-term caregivers are equally in demand. If you want to work as a security guard, you can choose from around five openings, and for some positions in the construction business the job-to-applicant ratio is over six.
Japan’s labor shortages are the result of both a shrinking population—which limits the overall pool of workers—and skill mismatches. The reduced supply of labor is one of the factors bringing down medium-term potential growth, which the International Monetary Fund estimates at just 0.6 percent. Labor market shortages are also bad for short-term growth, because they reduce the effectiveness of the monetary and fiscal stimulus that the authorities are using to try to boost demand.
As 2014 draws to a close, we thought you might like a look back at the most read blogs of the year. These are the headlines and ideas that caught your eyes and the list is based on readership. We thought we’d pull them all together for you in one quick read.
Wishing you a wonky & worldy 2015 from all of us at iMFdirect.
It looks as if labor markets in Latin America have not been following the economic news—literally! Economic activity has slowed markedly in the last three years, with some South American countries slipping into outright recession more recently. Yet, labor markets still appear remarkably strong, with unemployment rates, in particular, hovering at record-low levels in most countries (Figure 1). So, what is going on? Has the region discovered how to defy the law of gravity?
(version in 中文)
Raising the minimum wage is a polarizing issue. One side worries that raising it will lower employment. The other side downplays the impact on employment and plays up the positive impact on the living standards of the poor. Both sides are able to cling to their beliefs as the evidence, much of which comes from high-income (“advanced”) economies, is mixed.
The majority of the global labor force, however, is in the emerging markets. Moreover, for a number of these countries, instituting a minimum wage or raising it is squarely on the policy agenda. But little is known about the impacts of minimum wages on employment and living standards in emerging markets.
By Deniz Igan
(Version in Español)
Something unusual happened this year. For the first time in almost ten years, a book by an economist made it to Amazon’s Top 10 list. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century captured the attention of people from all walks of life because it echoed what an increasing number of Americans have been feeling: the rich keep getting richer and poverty in America is a mainstream problem.
The numbers illustrate the troubling reality. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 6 Americans—almost 50 million people—are living in poverty. Recent research documents that nearly 40 percent of American adults will spend at least one year in poverty by the time they reach 60. During 1968–2000, the risk was less than 20 percent. More devastatingly, 1 in 5 children currently live in poverty and, during their childhood, roughly 1 in 3 Americans will spend at least one year living below the poverty line.
(Version in Español)
It’s not supposed to be this way. As the U.S. economy recovers, hirings increase and people are encouraged to look for jobs again. Instead, the ratio of the adult population with jobs, or looking for one—what’s called the labor force participation rate—has been falling, standing at 62.9 percent in July 2014 (Figure 1).