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Yellen Says Fed Is Determined to Improve the Labor Market

New York Times (03/31/14) Binyamin Appelbaum

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen continues to focus central bank attention on unemployment, and she is hopeful that the Fed has the power to help. Some economists have said that the central bank has reached the limits of its ability to improve the labor market, and some Fed officials have indicated that the central bank could be winding down its economic stimulus campaign faster. Yellen has said that the Fed’s commitment to economic stimulus is “strong.”

Although the unemployment rate has fallen, the figure represents only those people looking for work and does not include those who have given up the search. Some economists say that structural unemployment following the recession is marked by a number of people without the skills to find new jobs, and Yellen indicated that the share of workers quitting jobs remains unusually low, signaling a dearth of better opportunities. Moreover, the share of workers with part-time jobs is unusually high, and wages for all workers are rising very slowly because of the abundant supply of labor.

Bounceback Anticipated for 2014

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (03/20/2014) Camden Cornwell

Although recent economic data indicate that economic growth has softened since the start of the year, some reports suggest that the true picture of the underlying economy has been temporarily clouded by weather-related shocks in business and consumer activity. The overall six-month moving average of job creation was given a boost to 177,000, thanks to the addition of 175,000 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in February and an upward revision of 15,000 jobs for January.

Experts attribute the marginal increase in unemployment to workers reentering the labor force and the drop in hours worked to weather disruptions that kept employees at home. Recent encouraging reports regarding production and employment indicate a bounceback in economic growth is likely this year.

U.S. Midwest Business Index Falls to Lowest Since August

Reuters (03/31/14)

The pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest declined in March to its lowest level since August, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The ISM’s most recent Chicago business barometer stands at 55.9, down from 59.8 in February. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast a reading of 59.0. Despite the decline in the Chicago gauge, the domestic manufacturing sector continues to grow at a moderate pace, experts say.

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