Friday, September 6, 2013

U.S. “Structural” Unemployment: Updated Estimates

Each release of the U.S. payroll employment report leads to a debate on the extent to which unemployment is cyclical vs. structural. I’ve just updated the estimates of U.S. structural unemployment reported in my 2011 IMF Working Paper. (Please note that IMF working papers represent the views of the authors and not the official view of the IMF or of any institution with which my co-authors are affiliated.)

Estimate of Structural Unemployment, 2008:Q1 to 2013:Q2

The bottom line? The estimate of structural unemployment has declined over the past year in line with the decline in the actual unemployment rate. In the figure below, the solid (black) line shows the U.S. unemployment rate declining from nearly 10 percent in 2009:Q4 to about 7 ½ percent today. The dotted (red) line is the estimate of structural unemployment; it too has declined over that time and the latest estimate of structural unemployment is 6.2 percent. There is a lot of concern about U.S. long-term unemployment. In this case too, there has been a decline in the estimate of the structural component of long-term unemployment, but it is more gradual than in the case of total unemployment.

Structural Component of Long-Term Unemployment

Intrigued? This post by Menzie Chinn (Econbrowser) has a nice ‘cheat sheet’ on how these estimates were constructed.