Is the labor market recovering well, facing serious challenges, or both? I recently joined about 100 distinguished economists and central bankers from around the country and world to discuss this and other important questions at the 2014 Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has hosted this symposium annually since 1978 and this may be the first time that a BLS Commissioner has attended. The topic of this year’s meeting was “Re-Evaluating Labor Market Dynamics.”
The program featured four papers that were presented and discussed, panel discussions on demographics and monetary policy, extensive question-and-answer sessions, and speeches from Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve System, and Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank.
Not surprisingly, BLS data were front and center during the conference. All the papers either used BLS data directly or investigated phenomena seen in BLS data by bringing other data to bear on the issues. Thus, the conference showcased how BLS serves as a trusted source of information essential for formulating good monetary policy and, more generally, for understanding labor market operations, conditions, and trends.
Janet Yellen noted in her opening remarks that the labor market is complex, so monetary policymakers must examine a range of indicators in order to assess the degree of slack in the labor market. I was very gratified to see that most of the expanded set of indicators mentioned by Yellen are produced by BLS.
Overall the discussions at Jackson Hole were stimulating, and I was very pleased to see so much BLS data being used to inform policy discussions.