Investors received some data points today that is highly revealing about the economy. The most important was the NFIB small business survey. Small business sentiment is especially important as they have little bargaining power and they are therefore sensitive barometers of the economy. The other is the March JOLTS report of labor market conditions, which is a little dated but nevertheless revealing.
More NFIB details
JOLTS: A strong labor market
Ready to say adios to your job? You’re not alone. “The great resignation is coming,” says Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University who’s studied the exits of hundreds of workers. “When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.” The numbers are multiplied, he says, by the many pandemic-related epiphanies—about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death, and what it all means—that can make people turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind. We asked Klotz what to expect as the great resignation picks up speed.
A “Not Enough” recovery
The post-crisis economy was about too much — too much debt, too much housing, too much interdependence, too much, too much, too much.
The post-pandemic economy is taking shape as one in which there is not enough — not enough housing, not enough workers, not enough cars, chlorine, or crypto.
And this inversion of what is driving this cycle can help explain what we’re seeing from the labor market to the housing market to the stock market and beyond. And perhaps helps make sense of why everyone — professional investors, the general public, politicians, and so on — seems perplexed by today’s state of affairs.
To the extent that supply chain congestion and other reopening frictions are transitory, they are unlikely to generate persistently higher inflation on their own. A persistent material increase in inflation would require not just that wages or prices increase for a period after reopening, but also a broad expectation that they will continue to increase at a persistently higher pace. A limited period of pandemic-related price increases is unlikely to durably change inflation dynamics.
The Fed is sticking with its story that it will “monitor incoming data”, but policy is going to stay accommodative for the time being.
I will remain attentive to the risk that what seem like transitory inflationary pressures could prove persistent as I closely monitor the incoming data. Should this risk manifest, we have the tools and the experience to gently guide inflation back to our target. No one should doubt our commitment to do so.
But recent experience suggests we should not lightly dismiss the risk on the other side. Achieving our inflation goal requires firmly anchoring inflation expectations at 2 percent. Following the reopening, there will need to be strong underlying momentum to reach the outcomes in our forward guidance. Remaining patient through the transitory surge associated with reopening will help ensure that the underlying economic momentum that will be needed to reach our goals as some current tailwinds shift to headwinds is not curtailed by a premature tightening of financial conditions.