August 22, 2014 / 2:00 PM / 3 years ago

HIGHLIGHTS-Yellen's remarks on the labor market at Jackson Hole

Aug 22 (Reuters) - Following are highlights from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's remarks on labor markets as prepared for delivery at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's Jackson Hole central banking conference.

ON THE LABOR MARKET RECOVERY AND MONETARY POLICY

"As the recovery progresses, assessments of the degree of remaining slack in the labor market need to become more nuanced because of considerable uncertainty about the level of employment consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate.

"Accordingly, the reformulated forward guidance reaffirms the FOMC's view that policy decisions will not be based on any single indicator, but will instead take into account a wide range of information on the labor market, as well as inflation and financial developments."

ON LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION

"As an accounting matter, the drop in the participation rate since 2008 can be attributed to increases in four factors: retirement, disability, school enrollment, and other reasons, including worker discouragement. Of these, greater worker discouragement is most directly the result of a weak labor market, so we could reasonably expect further increases in labor demand to pull a sizable share of discouraged workers back into the workforce."

"Indeed, the flattening out of the labor force participation rate since late last year could partly reflect discouraged workers rejoining the labor force in response to the significant improvements that we have seen in labor market conditions. If so, the cyclical shortfall in labor force participation may have diminished."

ON PART-TIME WORKERS

"At nearly 5 percent of the labor force, the number of such workers is notably larger, relative to the unemployment rate, than has been typical historically, providing another reason why the current level of the unemployment rate may understate the amount of remaining slack in the labor market."

"Despite ... challenges in assessing where the share of those employed part time for economic reasons may settle in the long run, the sharp run-up in involuntary part-time employment during the recession and its slow decline thereafter suggest that cyclical factors are significant."

ON HIRING

"A significant increase in job openings over the past year suggests notable improvement in labor market conditions, but the hiring rate has only partially recovered from its decline during the recession. Given the rise in job vacancies, hiring may be poised to pick up, but the failure of hiring to rise with vacancies could also indicate that firms perceive the prospects for economic growth as still insufficient to justify adding to payrolls. Alternatively, subdued hiring could indicate that firms are encountering difficulties in finding qualified job applicants.

That said, the balance of evidence leads me to conclude that weak aggregate demand has contributed significantly to the depressed levels of quits and hires during the recession and in the recovery."

ON WAGE INFLATION

"In real terms, wages have been about flat, growing less than labor productivity. This pattern of subdued real wage gains suggests that nominal compensation could rise more quickly without exerting any meaningful upward pressure on inflation. And, since wage movements have historically been sensitive to tightness in the labor market, the recent behavior of both nominal and real wages point to weaker labor market conditions than would be indicated by the current unemployment rate."

ON LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED

"The argument is that workers who have suffered long-term unemployment - along with, perhaps, those who have dropped out of the labor force but would return to work in a stronger economy - face significant impediments to reemployment. In this case, further improvement in the labor market could entail stronger wage pressures for a time before maximum employment has been attained."

ON LABOR SLACK

"With the economy getting closer to our objectives, the FOMC's emphasis is naturally shifting to questions about the degree of remaining slack, how quickly that slack is likely to be taken up, and thereby to the question of under what conditions we should begin dialing back our extraordinary accommodation. As should be evident from my remarks so far, I believe that our assessments of the degree of slack must be based on a wide range of variables and will require difficult judgments about the cyclical and structural influences in the labor market."

ON MONETARY POLICY

"As the FOMC has noted in its recent policy statements, the stance of policy will be guided by our assessments of how far we are from our objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation as well as our assessment of the likely pace of progress toward those objectives."

Washington economics team

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