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“充分就业”不等于人人有工作,为什么?

彭博社 2018年03月21日

对经济学家而言,充分就业意味着失业率要降到不会引起通胀上升的最低水平。

美国经济扩张后,数百万人已重新上岗,经济学家认为美国经济现在处于或者接近充分就业水平。但这话到底什么意思?经济学家所说的充分就业并不代表人人都有工作,而且即便经济再健康再繁荣,失业率也不可能降至零。如果失业率降得太多,通胀就会回升,因为用人单位争相招聘员工,导致薪资上涨太快。对经济学家而言,充分就业意味着失业率要降到不会引起通胀上升的最低水平。在美国,充分就业状态的失业率约为5%,高于美国官方公布的2月失业率:4.1%。通胀会因此走高吗?或者说,充分就业状态下失业率水平比经济学家预计的要低?

现状

本轮美国经济复苏始于2009年,截至2017年年末,全国就业人数由1.38亿人增长到1.54亿人。同期失业人数由1500万人减少到不足700万人。由于人才市场供应吃紧,美联储正在讨论何时加息。问题在于,现在没有以往明确多少美国人想找工作,因此难以判定抵御通胀率上升的失业率底线在哪。这是因为,上一次经济衰退相当严重,对人才市场的影响尚未研究透彻。美国财政部史蒂夫·姆努钦认为,更全面的失业率应该囊括所谓“失意劳动者”,这群人认为人才市场已经没有空缺岗位所以放弃找工作。也就是说,他认为应该采用美国劳工部人口调查局发布的替代性失业率指数U-5,通常放比常用的U-3失业率指数高整整一个百分点。

背景

美国政府对失业者的定义是,在统计数据之前四周内“主动找过”工作且随时可以上岗的无业人士。如果要扩大统计范围,就要把其他可能想找工作的人也算在内。人口调查局数据显示,今年2月“准失业”的劳动者有160万人,意味着有160万美国人在统计数据之前12个月内找过工作,但统计前四周内没有采取行动,其中就包括了37.3万失意劳动者。近年来准失业劳动者增加,部分原因是经济衰退影响持久且深远,随着经济持续扩张,准失业劳动者人数可能会减少。短期内其他类型的假性失业人数可能也很高。今年2月,在美国2700万兼职劳动者之中,希望找全职工作的有520万人。由于经济走强,过去不得已提前退休的人或者出于其他原因不再工作的人还可能重回劳动者大军。

结论

包括美联储决策者在内,经济学家对于美国接近充分就业的程度看法不一。有些经济学家认为,为了抑制通胀,应该尽快再次调升短期利率,并且应该加快削减美联储的债券仓位。有些则认为,利率应该保持更低水平,主要原因是通胀还低于美联储的目标。一些经济学家认为,官方失业率可以进一步下降,比如降到4%,然后再考虑解决通胀问题。另一些人认为,跟经济衰退期后的失业率相比,薪资变化或许更能反映人才市场环境变化。从薪资数据来看,美国经济有加快增长的迹象,但不够明确。美联储最大的担忧便是:通胀真正来临前,我们可能没法知道怎样算充分就业。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

 

The U.S. expansion has put millions of people back to work and economists agree that the economy is now at or close to full employment. But what does that mean exactly? When economists talk about full employment, they don’t mean everybody has a job. And they don’t mean that even the rosiest economic health can cut unemployment to zero. If unemployment falls too much, inflation will rise as employers compete to hire workers and push up wages too fast. To economists, full employment means that unemployment has fallen to the lowest possible level that won’t cause inflation. In the U.S., that was thought to be a jobless rate of about 5 percent — above the February rate of 4.1 percent. Is higher inflation therefore on the way? Or is full employment a smaller number than economists supposed?

The Situation

Since the U.S. recovery began in 2009, total employment rose from 138 million to 154 million by the end of 2017. The number of unemployed has shrunk to fewer than 7 million from 15 million. As the labor market tightens, the Federal Reserve is debating the timing of its next rate hikes. The problem is that there’s more uncertainty than usual over how many people want jobs, making it hard to pinpoint how much unemployment has to be tolerated to fend off inflation. That’s because the last recession was exceptionally severe and has shaken up the labor market in ways that aren’t well understood. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argues that a fuller unemployment measure should include “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking because they thought there were no openings. That rate, the BLS’s alternative U-5 index, tends to run a full percentage point higher than the commonly cited U-3 index.

The Background

The government counts as unemployed people who don’t have a job, have “actively looked” for one in the previous four weeks, and are available for work. A wider measure of people needing work would count other potential job-seekers as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1.6 million people were “marginally attached to the labor force” in February — meaning they wanted a job and had looked for one in the previous 12 months, but not in the past four weeks. This included 373,000 discouraged workers. The number of marginally attached surged in recent years partly because the recession was so deep and long; it’s likely to shrink as the expansion continues. Other kinds of disguised unemployment may be temporarily high as well. In February, 5.2 million of the economy’s 27 million part-time workers wanted a full-time job. A stronger economy might also draw back into the labor force people who retired sooner than they’d intended, or who chose to stop working for other reasons.

The Argument

Economists, including the Fed’s policy makers, are divided about how close the economy is to full employment. To discourage inflation, some think that short-term interest rates should rise again soon and that plans to reduce the central bank’s holdings of bonds should be sped up. Others think that rates should be held lower, not least because inflation is still below the Fed’s target. Some economists think that the official rate of unemployment can fall further — say, to 4 percent — before inflation concerns need to be addressed. Others say that changes in wages may be a clearer indicator of labor-market conditions than the post-crash unemployment rate. Wages are showing only hesitant signs of faster growth. The Fed’s big concern: It’s possible that we won’t know what full employment means until inflation takes off.

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