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Separating the Business Cycle from Other Economic Fluctuations

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  • Robert E. Hall

Abstract

Macroeconomists%u2014%u2014especially those studying monetary policy%u2014%u2014often view the business cycle as a transitory departure from the smooth evolution of a neoclassical growth model. Important ideas contributed by Friedman, Lucas, and the developers of the sticky-price macro model generate this type of aggregate behavior. But the real-business cycle model shows that the neoclassical model implies anything but smooth growth. A purely neoclassical model, devoid of anything resembling a business cycle in the sense of transitory departures from neoclassical equilibrium, nevertheless explains most of the volatility of GDP growth at all frequencies. Monetary policymakers looking to a neoclassical model to provide the neutral levels of key variables-potential GDP, the natural rate of unemployment, and the equilibrium real interest rate, need to solve a complicated and controversial model to find these constructs. They cannot take average or smoothed values of actual data to find them. Further, low-frequency movements of unemployment suggest a failure of the basic idea that departures from the neoclassical equilibrium are transitory. I discuss new theories of the labor market capable of explaining the low-frequency movements of unemployment. I conclude that monetary policymakers should not try to discern neutral values of real variables. Some branches of modem theory do not support the concepts of potential GDP, the natural rate of unemployment, and the equilibrium real interest rate. Even the theories that do support the concepts suggest that measurement in real time is impractical.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Hall, 2005. "Separating the Business Cycle from Other Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 11651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11651
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    Cited by:

    1. Pelin Ilbas & Øistein Røisland & Tommy Sveen, 2013. "The influence of the Taylor rule on US monetary policy," Working Paper 2013/04, Norges Bank.
    2. Stijn Claessens & M. Ayhan Kose & Marco E. Terrones, 2009. "What happens during recessions, crunches and busts?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 24, pages 653-700, October.
    3. Alan S. Blinder & Ricardo Reis, 2005. "Understanding the Greenspan standard," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Aug, pages 11-96.
    4. Seung Hee Choi & Bang Nam Jeon, 2011. "The impact of the macroeconomic environment on merger activity: evidence from US time-series data," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(4), pages 233-249.
    5. Hjelm, Göran & Jönsson, Kristian, 2010. "In Search of a Method for Measuring the Output Gap of the Swedish Economy," Working Papers 115, National Institute of Economic Research.
    6. Silke Tober & Tobias Zimmermann, 2009. "Monetary policy and commodity price shocks," Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy, Springer;German National Library of Economics;Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), vol. 44(4), pages 231-237, July.
    7. Gerald Epstein, 2007. "Central banks as agents of employment creation," Working Papers 38, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    8. Mark W. Watson, 2007. "How accurate are real-time estimates of output trends and gaps?," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 143-161.
    9. Edge, Rochelle M. & Kiley, Michael T. & Laforte, Jean-Philippe, 2008. "Natural rate measures in an estimated DSGE model of the U.S. economy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 2512-2535, August.
    10. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2131 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Jeffrey R. Campbell & Spencer D. Krane, 2005. "Consumption-based macroeconomic forecasting," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q IV, pages 52-70.
    12. James Laurenceson, 2011. "The Persistence Characteristics of Output Growth in China: How Important is the Business Cycle?," Discussion Papers Series 430, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    13. Laurenceson, James & Rodgers, Danielle, 2010. "China's macroeconomic volatility -- How important is the business cycle?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 324-333, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

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