Chicago Fed Letter
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated recession have had dramatically different effects across industries, with some, including large parts of the leisure and hospitality sector, truly devastated and others, like much of the manufacturing sector, able to recover quite quickly. This has led some analysts to describe the pandemic as a reallocation shock, requiring substantial movement of labor across industries. Such a process likely requires substantial time, during which the natural rate of unemployment may be elevated. In this Chicago Fed Letter, we consider two questions: First, has the need for labor reallocation risen, and second, has there been an increase in the amount of reallocation that is actually occurring?
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in great economic and financial disruption. To better understand how financial hardships have varied across communities, we investigate credit card delinquencies across the states of the Federal Reserve’s Seventh District: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While we find a slight increase of less than 1 percentage point in delinquency rates across the District overall following the onset of the pandemic, we find more pronounced increases of about 2 percentage points in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and about 3 percentage points in majority Black neighborhoods.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) signed into law on March 11, 2021, authorized approximately $1.9 trillion in federal government spending. ARP is widely expected to boost economic growth over the next two to three years—and significantly so early on. The upswing in growth is likely to increase resource pressures and therefore consumer price inflation as well. The potential for this channel to raise inflation substantially has attracted the attention of economic commentators, including Olivier Blanchard and Lawrence Summers. But the magnitudes and persistence of the possible increases in inflation are often left unsaid. In this article, we take a closer look into the effects ARP may have on inflation.
To answer the question in the title: Thus far, not dramatically so. In this Chicago Fed Letter, I document three facts supporting this conclusion. First, although the Covid period has seen multiple months with high rates of worker movement (reallocation) across industry sectors (relative to previous recessions), net cumulative reallocation from the onset of the pandemic through December 2020 is only the third highest among post-1945 recessions over the same horizon (and is only modestly outside the confidence bound for the average across those recessions). Thus, much of the reallocation during Covid seems to have been a reversion toward the pre-crisis allocation following the highly dispersed initial impact of the virus.
As the U.S. economy remains weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, concern persists for the health and resilience of the municipal bond market. Municipal bonds (muni bonds) are debt securities issued by state and local governments to raise money and are generally considered to be safe investments. However, the recent slowdown in economic activity due to Covid-19 created significant stress on state and local government budgets, leading to a heightened risk for municipal bond downgrades and possibly even defaults. In this Chicago Fed Letter, we examine to what extent property and casualty (P&C) and life insurance companies, which are among the largest direct institutional investors in the municipal bond market, are vulnerable to a significant downturn in the muni bond market.
School and day care center restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have presented enormous challenges to parents trying to juggle work with child-care responsibilities. Still, empirical evidence on the impact of pandemic-related child-care constraints on the labor market outcomes of working parents is somewhat mixed. Some studies suggest the pandemic had no additional impact on the labor supply of parents, while other studies show not only that it did but that the negative impact was disproportionately borne by working mothers.
We estimate a simple model in which variations in Illinois daily municipal bond yields are explained by high-frequency indicators summarizing economic and public health conditions in Illinois, as well as key changes in the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility (or MLF). We find that the MLF appears to have reduced Illinois muni yields by more than 200 basis points.