In December I provided some simple calculations of the extent to which a slowdown in the growth of global oil demand may have contributed to the spectacular drop in oil prices since last summer, and I updated those estimates two weeks ago. Some of you have suggested that as conditions keep changing, perhaps I should update those calculations every week. Thanks to the always-helpful Ironman at Political Calculations, I can now go that a step better, and provide eager Econbrowser readers a quick tool they can use to update these calculations on their own on a daily basis, if your heart so desires.
The Swiss National Bank stunned markets on Thursday with an abrupt decision to abandon its commitment since 2011 to hold the Swiss franc at 1.20 francs/euro, as a result of which the franc appreciated almost 20% within the space of a few minutes.
The price of oil passed another milestone last week, falling below $50 a barrel, a level that I had not expected to see again in my lifetime.
The spectacular drop in oil prices means that inflation is going to fall even further below the Fed’s 2% target. Does that raise any new risks for the economy? I say no, and here’s why.
West Texas Intermediate sold for $105 a barrel at the start of July, but ended last week at $58. The most important factor has been surging U.S. production. But another reason oil prices have slid so much is weakness in demand for the product, which may be related to a slowdown of overall world economic growth. Here I comment on the importance of that second factor.
A large literature has examined the effects on employment of raising the minimum wage, with different researchers arriving at conflicting conclusions. The core reason that economists can’t answer questions like this better is that we usually can’t run controlled experiments. There is always some reason that the legislators chose to raise the minimum wage, often related to prevailing economic conditions. We can never be sure if changes in employment that followed the legislation were the result of those motivating conditions or the result of the legislation itself. For example, if Congress only raises the minimum wage when the economy is on the rebound and all wages are about to rise anyway, we’d usually observe a rise in employment following a hike in the minimum wage that is not caused by the legislation itself. UCSD Ph.D. candidate Michael Wither and his adviser Professor Jeffrey Clemens have some interesting new research that sheds some more light on this question.
The world is awash in oil, I’m hearing. The problem is, it’s fairly expensive oil.