Claims that US inflation no longer responds to cyclical unemployment are misguided. New research by Numera Analytics shows job market gains have so far been offset by weak global conditions, an increasingly important driver of consumer prices in advanced economies. As global headwinds dissipate, rising import prices and strong aggregate demand will drive up headline inflation.
In our view, the current debate is much too focused on simple correlations between inflation and the unemployment rate. A weaker correlation has led many observers to declare the “death” of the Phillips curve. But correlations are just the outcome of complex shifts in underlying drivers. We find globalization has made US CPI inflation more responsive to the international environment, amplifying the effect of global macro shocks on consumer prices. Our findings have major implications for monetary policy. If inflation is less sensitive to domestic conditions, stabilizing inflation may come at the cost of higher debt burdens or larger output fluctuations. For macro investors, the results also imply anticipating future changes in interest rates and asset prices requires a better grasp of global economic conditions.
This special research note was written by Joaquin Kritz Lara, head of Macro Research and Senior Economist at Numera Analytics.