The Federal Reserve Board's open market committee meeting this week likely presents the FOMC with its last opportunity to boost the economy before the end of the year. While the FOMC meets every six weeks, as a practical matter, the FOMC has historically been very reluctant to take major moves close to an election...
Even the 165,000-a-month average rate of job creation for the last five months is far too slow. With the economy needing roughly 100,000 new jobs a month just to keep pace with labor force growth, it would take us more than 12 years to make up our 10 million jobs deficit at this point.
If there is a clear need for more rapid growth, the data also show there is no downside risk of excessive inflation. The consumer price index fell 0.3% in May. It has risen by just 1.7% over the last year. (The core index rose 0.2% last month and is up 2.3% over the last year.)
Of course, many of us have argued that higher than normal inflation would be desirable, in any case. It would reduce real interest rates in a world where the Fed has already pushed the nominal federal funds rate as low as it possibly can. That would provide businesses with more incentive to invest. Higher inflation should also help to lift house prices, helping homeowners to rebuild equity.
However, even if the Fed is unwilling to accept the idea that it should promote higher inflation, as Chairman Ben Bernanke used to recommend back in his days as economics professor, it should at least be confident that the data show no reason to be concerned about inflation exceeding its target... There are two routes the Fed can go.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012