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A state-level analysis of the Great Moderation

  • Michael T. Owyang
  • Jeremy M. Piger
  • Howard J. Wall

A number of studies have documented a reduction in aggregate macroeconomic volatility beginning in the early 1980s. Using an empirical model of business cycles, we extend this line of research to state-level employment data and find significant heterogeneity in the timing and magnitude of the state-level volatility reductions. In fact, some states experience no statistically-important reductions in volatility. We then exploit this cross sectional heterogeneity to evaluate hypotheses about the origin of the aggregate volatility reduction. We show that states with relatively high concentrations in the durable-goods and extractive industries tended to experience later breaks. We interpret these results as contradictory to hypotheses that the Great Moderation could have been caused by improved inventory management or less-volatile shocks to energy and/or productivity. Instead, we find results that are more consistent with the view that the most significant contributor to the volatility reduction was improved monetary policy.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2007-003.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2007-003
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