Here’s Why Spiking Inflation And Labor Shortages Won’t Tank The Economic Recovery, According To Experts

New York City Reopens As Most Pandemic Restrictions Are Lifted

Spiking inflation, disappointing jobs gains and shortages of labor and commodities have investors wringing their hands over the state of the economy and the seemingly growing risk of overheating, but according to Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, there’s no cause for alarm.

In a research note published Tuesday, Zandi emphasizes that all those factors are temporary.  “The recovery . . . may be uneven, given the considerable adjustments needed for the economy to fully reopen, but our outlook for a boom-like economy over the coming year has not changed materially,” he wrote.

The labor shortage and hiring difficulties will improve as students return to school and parents have more childcare options, he suggests, and he describes the evidence that federal supplemental $300 weekly unemployment benefits are keeping workers home as “thin.”

Zandi expects inflationary pressures to ease later this year once the economy returns to normal and businesses—especially those in the travel and leisure industry—get past the point where they are reversing their pandemic-era price cuts.

He suggested investor fears that stubborn inflation will force the Federal Reserve to hastily raise rates, thereby triggering a recession, are unlikely to materialize because of the significant slack still extant in the labor market.

Zandi also cites the ongoing semiconductor shortage as a major factor in the job losses and shortages in the auto manufacturing industry, but adds that he expects those pressures to abate by next year once surging demand and soaring prices for the chips prompt suppliers to boost production, thereby stabilizing the supply chain.

Crucial Quote

“Until the supply side of the economy wakes up and catches up with the fast-reviving demand side coming out of the pandemic, the economic statistics will undoubtedly hold more surprises—output and supply chains scrambled; labor, commodities and products in short supply; and price spikes,” Zandi wrote. “If history is a guide, when businesses can make a healthy profit, they will solve the problems,” he added. “Quickly.”

Key Background

Zandi isn’t the only expert looking beyond the risk factors to a robust recovery. Despite raising their expectations for one measure of inflation by more than a percentage point to a peak of 3.5% this year, analysts from investment giant Goldman Sachs believe the factors that caused them to hike the target for core CPI inflation—soaring used-car prices, production delays in the auto industry and changes in health insurance payouts—are temporary.

Not to mention, their impact isn’t as large across other measures of inflation that weigh prices differently. That sentiment is also beginning to make its way to Wall Street: “The inflation debate is not over, but the majority of Wall Street believes it will be transitory,” OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya wrote in a Tuesday note.

Just as telling as the wage data, the share of working-age Americans who are in fact working has declined in recent decades. The country now has the equivalent of a large group of bakeries that are not making baguettes but would do so if it were more lucrative — a pool of would-be workers, sitting on the sidelines of the labor market.

Corporate profits, on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of G.D.P. than in previous decades. As a result, most companies can afford to respond to a growing economy by raising wages and continuing to make profits, albeit perhaps not the unusually generous profits they have been enjoying.

Chief Critic

But not everyone agrees. Larry Summers, an economist who served in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, wrote in a Monday op-ed in the Washington Post that while some of the recent inflation might normalize with time, “not everything we are seeing is likely to be temporary.”

Summers suggests that a handful of factors including demand that grows faster than supply, higher housing prices, inflation expectations and even higher minimum wages and more benefits for employees have the potential to push inflation even higher. Summer recommends that policymakers “explicitly [recognize] that overheating, and not excessive slack, is the predominant near-term risk for the economy.”

What We Don’t Know

When the Federal Reserve will move to tighten policy and raise interest rates. Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic told CNBC last week that given the 8 million jobs that have yet to be recovered, “I think we’ve got to have our policies in a very strongly accommodative situation or stance.” He added: “I don’t think we’re going to have answers on this until at least early fall, and it may take longer than that.”

One of the few ways to have a true labor shortage in a capitalist economy is for workers to be demanding wages so high that businesses cannot stay afloat while paying those wages. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the U.S. economy does not suffer from that problem.

If anything, wages today are historically low. They have been growing slowly for decades for every income group other than the affluent. As a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century. Two main causes are corporate consolidation and shrinking labor unions, which together have given employers more workplace power and employees less of it.

I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

Source: Here’s Why Spiking Inflation And Labor Shortages Won’t Tank The Economic Recovery, According To Experts

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References

Nelson 1995, p. 158. This Marxist objection is what motivated Nelson’s essay, which claims that labour is not, in fact, a commodity.

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