What’s the Fed doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis? What more could it do?

What’s the Fed doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis? What more could it do? Brookings Institution. Jeffrey Cheng, Dave Skidmore, and David Wessel. March 23, 2020

This post will be updated throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It was most recently updated on March 31, 2020.

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Internet Regimes and WTO E-Commerce Negotiations

Internet Regimes and WTO E-Commerce Negotiations. Congressional Research Service. Rachel F. Fefer. January 28, 2020.

From retail to agriculture or healthcare, digitization has affected all sectors and allowed more industries to engage with customers and partners around the globe. Many U.S. companies thrived in the initial online environment, which lacked clear rules and guidelines, quickly expanding their offerings and entering foreign markets. As the internet has evolved, however, governments have begun to impose national laws and regulations to pursue data protection, data security, privacy, and other policy objectives. The lack of global rules and norms for data and digital trade is leading to differences in these domestic internet regimes. Competing internet regimes and conflicting data governance rules increase trade barriers and limit investment flows and international commerce, restricting the ability of U.S. businesses and consumers to enter and compete in some markets. For example, foreign internet regimes may use national security regulations to block cross-border data flows, disrupting global supply chains and limiting the potential use of and gains from emerging technologies. The creation of national technology standards can also limit market access by foreign firms.
As the digital economy expands, the diversity in digital rules is poised to grow in complexity and create new trade restrictions. The resulting patchwork of technical standards and national systems creates challenges for international trade, and may signal an impending fracturing of the global internet. Without agreement on global norms or common trade rules, some analysts foresee a splitting of the internet into distinct nation-led “dataspheres” and virtual trading blocs.

[PDF format, 29 pages].

Organized Labor and The Employment Trajectories of Workers in Routine Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Panel Data

Organized Labor and the Employment Trajectories of Workers in Routine Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Panel Data. Brookings Institution. Zachary Parolin. January 14, 2020.

Technological change has contributed to declines in the employment shares of routine occupations, such as office clerks and industrial workers. Less clear, however, is whether organized labor mitigates the pace and consequences of technological change for workers in routine occupations. This study investigates the extent to which union membership affects the employment and earnings trajectories of workers in routine jobs. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) spanning 1970 to 2015, this study employs individual fixed effects and propensity score matching estimates to assess the effect of union membership on the likelihood that an adult in a routine job (1) remains employed in a routine job for a longer duration of time, (2) avoids unemployment, and (3) achieves higher earnings over time relative to non-unionized routine workers. The results demonstrate that union membership contributes to a 13 percentage point increase in the likelihood that a worker in a routine occupation remains in that occupation during the two decades after obtaining the job, a 5 percentage point decrease in the likelihood of becoming unemployed, and a 4 percentage point decrease in the likelihood of earning below 50 percent of national median earnings. Results are broadly consistent across decade, age group, race/ethnicity, sex, and level of educational attainment. The findings suggest that organized labor is an important actor in shaping the pace and social consequences of technological change. [Note: contains copyrighted information].

[PDF format, 30 pages].

Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy

Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy. World Economic Forum January 2020.

Nature Risk Rising, produced in collaboration with PwC and the first report in the New Nature Economy series, explains how nature-related risks matter to business, why they must be urgently mainstreamed into risk management strategies, and why it is vital to prioritize the protection of nature assets and services within the broaderglobal economic growth addenda. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 36 pages].

U.S. Has Changed In Key Ways In The Past Decade, From Tech Use To Demographics

U.S. Has Changed In Key Ways In The Past Decade, From Tech Use To Demographics. Pew Research Center.  Katherine Schaeffer. December 20, 2019

The past decade in the United States has seen technological advancements, demographic shifts and major changes in public opinion. Pew Research Center has tracked these developments through surveys, demographic analyses and other research. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Automation: A Guide for Policymakers

Automation: A Guide for Policymakers. Brookings Institution. James Bessen et al. January 14, 2020.

Advancing technologies are increasingly able to fully or partially automate job tasks. These technologies range from robotics to machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, and are being adopted across many sectors of the economy. Applications range from selecting job applicants for interviewing, picking orders in a warehouse, interpreting X-rays to diagnose disease, and automated customer service. These developments have raised concern that workers are being displaced by advancing automation technology. Indeed, over 18 recent studies predict job losses from new automation technologies, including some predictions of massive job losses (Winick 2018). A large literature on worker displacement suggests that the effects of such developments could be dire: individual workers subject to plant closings and mass layoffs experience reduced employment probabilities and wage reductions, leading to long-term earnings losses, as well as reductions in consumption and worse health outcomes. Concerns about these effects of automation have led some commentators to call for policies to directly combat mass unemployment, such as a Universal Basic Income.

But is this right? At a time when many firms are investing in automation, the unemployment rate is at historic lows. Low unemployment might seem hard to reconcile with apocalyptic predictions about mass unemployment. This paper reviews the evidence from recent studies and reports on a new paper we have written, “Automatic Reaction: What happens to workers at firms that automate” (Bessen et al. 2019). This paper is the first to take a look at what actually happens to those workers. We build on some of the findings in order to draw the implications for policy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 17 pages].

The Macroeconomics of Automation: Data, Theory, and Policy Analysis

The Macroeconomics of Automation: Data, Theory, and Policy Analysis.  Brookings Institution. Nir Jaimovich et al. January 14, 2020.

Advanced economies have experienced a significant drop in the fraction of the population employed in middle wage, “routine task-intensive” occupations. Applying machine learning techniques, we identify characteristics of those who used to be employed in such occupations and show they are now less likely to work in routine occupations. Instead, they are either not-participants in the labor force or working at occupations that tend to occupy the bottom of the wage distribution. We then develop a quantitative, heterogeneous agent, general equilibrium model of labor force participation, occupational choice, and capital investment. This allows us to quantify the role of advancement in automation technology in accounting for these labor market changes. We then use this framework as a laboratory to evaluate various public policies aimed at addressing the disappearance of routine employment and its consequent impacts on inequality. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 51 pages].