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How does the FOMC learn about economic revolutions? evidence from the New Economy Era, 1994-2001

  • Richard G. Anderson
  • Kevin L. Kliesen

Forecasting is a daunting challenge for business economists and policymakers, often made more difficult by pervasive uncertainty. No such uncertainty is more difficult than projecting the reaction of policymakers to major shifts in the economy. We explore the process by which the FOMC came to recognize, and react to, the productivity acceleration of the 1990s. Initial impressions were formed importantly by anecdotal evidence. Then, policymakers—and chiefly Alan Greenspan—came to mistrust the data and the forecasts. Eventually, revisions to published data confirmed initial impressions. Our main conclusion is that the productivity-driven positive supply side shocks of the 1990s were initially viewed favorably. However, over time they came to be viewed as posing a threat to the economy, chiefly through unsustainable increases in aggregate demand growth that threatened to increase inflation pressures. Perhaps nothing so complicates business planning and forecasting as policymakers who initially embrace an unanticipated shift and, later, come to abhor the same shift.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2011-041.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2011-041
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  1. Ellis W. Tallman, 2003. "Monetary policy and learning: Some implications for policy and research," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q3, pages 1-9.
  2. Jorgenson, Dale W. & Ho, Mun S. & Stiroh, Kevin J., 2003. "Lessons from the US growth resurgence," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 453-470, July.
  3. Susanto Basu & John G. Fernald & Nicholas Oulton & Sylaja Srinivasan, 2004. "The Case of the Missing Productivity Growth, or Does Information Technology Explain Why Productivity Accelerated in the United States But Not in the United Kingdom?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18, pages 9-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Athanasios Orphanides & Simon van Norden, 2001. "The Unreliability of Output Gap Estimates in Real Time," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-57, CIRANO.
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  8. Dirk Pilat & Frank C. Lee, 2001. "Productivity Growth in ICT-producing and ICT-using Industries: A Source of Growth Differentials in the OECD?," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2001/4, OECD Publishing.
  9. Daniel L. Thornton, 2005. "When did the FOMC begin targeting the federal funds rate? what the verbatim transcripts tell us," Working Papers 2004-015, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  10. Richard G. Anderson & Kevin L. Kliesen, 2010. "FOMC learning and productivity growth (1985-2003): a reading of the record," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 129-154.
  11. Michael A. Kouparitsas, 2005. "Is there evidence of the new economy in U.S. GDP data?," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 12-29.
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