Over at Huffington World Post: Future Economists Will Probably Call This Decade the 'Longest Depression'

Must-Read: Jared Bernstein: 2015 Was Solid Year for Job Growth: "Payrolls were up 292,000 in December and the unemployment rate held steady at a low rate of 5%...

...in another in a series of increasingly solid reports on conditions in the US labor market. Upward revisions for the prior two months added 50,000 jobs, leading to an average of 284,000 jobs per month in the last quarter of 2015. In another welcome show of strength, the labor force expanded in December, leading the participation rate to tick up slightly.

December’s data reveals that US employers added a net 2.7 million jobs in 2015 while the unemployment rate fell from 5.6% last December to 5% last month. While the level of payroll gains did not surpass 2014’s addition of 3.1 million, it was otherwise the strongest year of job growth since 1999.

Simply put, for all the turmoil out there in the rest of the world, the US labor market tightened up significantly in 2015.... We are not yet at full employment. But we’re headed there at a solid clip, and that pace accelerated in recent months...

Graph Employment Rate Aged 25 54 All Persons for the United States© FRED St Louis Fed

I must say, when I look at this graph I find it very hard to understand the thought of all the economists who confidently claim to know that the bulk of the decline in the employment-to-adult-population ratio since 2000 is demographic and sociological. 4/5 of the decline in the overall ratio since 2000 is present in the prime-age ratio. More than 5/8 of the decline in the overall ratio since 2007 is present in the prime-age ratio.

It thus looks very much to me like the effects of slack demand--both immediate, and knock-on effects via hysteresis. And what demand has done, demand can undo. Perhaps it cannot be done without breaching the 2%/year inflation target, but:

  • That 2%/year inflation target is supposed to be an average, not a ceiling.
  • Since 2008:1, inflation has averaged not 2%/year but 1.47%/year.
  • There is thus a cumulative inflation deficit of 4.22%-point-years available for catch-up. And
  • The 2%/year inflation target was extremely foolish to adopt--nobody sane in the mid- or late-1990s or in the early- or mid-2000s would have argued for adopting it had they foreseen 2007-9 and what has happened since.

Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers All Items FRED St Louis Fed