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How Precise Are Estimates of the Natural Rate of Unemployment?

In: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy

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  • Douglas O. Staiger
  • James H. Stock
  • Mark W. Watson

Abstract

This paper investigates the precision of conventional and unconventional estimates of the natural rate of unemployment (the 'NAIRU'). The main finding is that the NAIRU is imprecisely estimated: a typical 95% confidence interval for the NAIRU in 1990 is 5.1% to 7.7%. This imprecision obtains whether the natural rate is modeled as a constant, as a slowly changing function of time, as an unobserved random walk, or as a function of various labor market fundamentals; it obtains using other series for unemployment and inflation, including additional supply shift variables in the Phillips curve, using monthly or quarterly data, and using various measures for expected inflation. This imprecision suggests caution in using the NAIRU to guide monetary policy.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1, octubre-d.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 8885.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:8885

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    1. Stephen G. Cecchetti, 1995. "Inflation Indicators and Inflation Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1995, Volume 10, pages 189-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Oliver Jean Blanchard & Peter Diamond, 1989. "The Beveridge Curve," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 20(1), pages 1-76.
    3. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction and Employment Reallocation," NBER Working Papers 3728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Setterfield, M.A. & Gordon, D.V. & Osberg, L., 1990. "Searching For A Will O'The Wisp: An Empirical Study Of The Nairu In Canada," Department of Economics at Dalhousie University working papers archive 90-04, Dalhousie, Department of Economics.
    5. Victor Zarnowitz & Phillip Braun, 1992. "Twenty-two Years of the NBER-ASA Quarterly Economic Outlook Surveys: Aspects and Comparisons of Forecasting Performance," NBER Working Papers 3965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Stuart E. Weiner, 1993. "New estimates of the natural rate of unemployment," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 53-69.
    7. Bai, Jushan, 1997. "Estimating Multiple Breaks One at a Time," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(03), pages 315-352, June.
    8. Cooley, Thomas F & Prescott, Edward C, 1973. "Tests of an Adaptive Regression Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(2), pages 248-56, May.
    9. Giuseppe Bertola & Ricardo J. Caballero, 1993. "Cross Sectional Efficiency and Labor Hoarding in an Matching Model of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 4472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Geoffrey M.B. Tootell, 1994. "Restructuring, the NAIRU, and the Phillips curve," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Sep, pages 31-44.
    11. Robert G. King & James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1995. "Temporal instability of the unemployment-inflation relationship," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue May, pages 2-12.
    12. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, September.
    13. Kuttner, Kenneth N, 1994. "Estimating Potential Output as a Latent Variable," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(3), pages 361-68, July.
    14. Cooley, Thomas F & Prescott, Edward C, 1973. "An Adaptive Regression Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(2), pages 364-71, June.
    15. Cooley, Thomas F & Prescott, Edward C, 1976. "Estimation in the Presence of Stochastic Parameter Variation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(1), pages 167-84, January.
    16. Kenneth Kuttner, 1992. "Monetary policy with uncertain estimates of potential output," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Jan, pages 2-15.
    17. Gordon, Robert J, 1990. "What Is New-Keynesian Economics?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 1115-71, September.
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