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A principal components approach to estimating labor market pressure and its implications for inflation


  • Michelle L. Barnes
  • Ryan Chahrour
  • Giovanni P. Olivei
  • Gaoyan Tang


We build a summary measure of labor market pressure that captures the common movement among a variety of labor market series. Obtained as the labor market series’ first principal component, this measure explains a large portion of the variability of the underlying series. For this reason, it is a good summary indicator of labor market pressure. We show that the unemployment rate gap has tracked this summary measure closely over the past 35 years. At times, however, the summary measure and the unemployment rate gap have sent somewhat different signals. In terms of relying on the principal components summary measure vis-à-vis the unemployment rate gap for explaining inflation, we argue that the recent evolution of wage inflation is more consistent with the evolution of the summary measure than with the unemployment rate gap. This is because over the past two years the principal components summary measure has been suggesting less labor market pressure than the unemployment rate gap. Over the past 35 years, however, there is little systematic evidence favoring the summary measure of labor market pressure over the unemployment rate gap as a predictor of inflation.

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  • Michelle L. Barnes & Ryan Chahrour & Giovanni P. Olivei & Gaoyan Tang, 2007. "A principal components approach to estimating labor market pressure and its implications for inflation," Public Policy Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpb:y:2007:n:07-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Andrea Brandolini & Piero Cipollone & Eliana Viviano, 2006. "Does The Ilo Definition Capture All Unemployment?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 153-179, March.
    5. Katharine L. Bradbury, 2005. "Additional slack in the economy: the poor recovery in labor force participation during this business cycle," Public Policy Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    6. Anderson Katharine & Barrow Lisa & Butcher Kristin F., 2005. "Implications of Changes in Men's and Women's Labor Force Participation for Real Compensation Growth and Inflation," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-27, March.
    7. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
    8. Stephen R. G. Jones & W. Craig Riddell, 2006. "Unemployment and Nonemployment: Heterogeneities in Labor Market States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 314-323, May.
    9. Garrido, Luis & Toharia, Luis, 2004. "What does it take to be (counted as) unemployed? The case of Spain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 507-523, August.
    10. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1997. "Unemployment and Nonemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 295-300, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chung, Hess & Fallick, Bruce C. & Nekarda, Christopher J. & Ratner, David, 2014. "Assessing the Change in Labor Market Conditions," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-109, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. repec:eee:jpolmo:v:39:y:2017:i:2:p:247-271 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Albuquerque, Bruno & Baumann, Ursel, 2017. "Will US inflation awake from the dead? The role of slack and non-linearities in the Phillips curve," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 247-271.


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