Estimates imply the brand-new normal speed for U.S. GDP growth remains between 1½% and also 1¾%, noticeably slower 보다 the usual pace since World war II. The slowdown stems mostly from demographic fads that have actually slowed labor force growth, around which over there is reasonably little uncertainty. A larger an obstacle is productivity. Achieve GDP growth consistently above 1¾% will require much faster productivity expansion than the United claims has commonly experienced because the 1970s.

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Before the great Recession, a GDP expansion rate the 3% or higher seemed regular for the united States. Because that example, yearly growth native 1987 to 2007 average 3%. In contrast, the pace because the end of the great Recession in 2009 has actually been much slower, averaging just 2.3% per year with the finish of 2018. Over the past two years, however, expansion has averaged a bit greater at 2.7%. This raises the hope that longer-run, or trend, growth can be more powerful than it showed up a few years ago—even if the is tho falling brief of that is pre-2008 pace.

In this Letter, we update the analysis in Fernald (2016) regarding the underlying components of sustainable growth—hours worked and also productivity, measure up as output per hour. Regardless of the current speedup in growth, we conclude that a selection of 1½% to 1¾% remains a more reasonable best guess because that longer-run growth.

This slow-moving pace loved one to history reflects two factors. Many importantly, demographic fads leave little doubt the the labor force will thrive slowly at best over the following decade. There is more uncertainty about the other factor, performance growth. Our forecast assumes that efficiency will thrive at a pace similar to current decades. Averting this slow-growth future would require a sustained boost in efficiency growth.

Differentiating the tendency from the cycle

The federal Reserve has a conference mandate to go after maximum employment. This method policymakers should assess what speed of growth is consistent with maintaining employment at the desired level. If employed is listed below that level—such that unemployment is too high—then economic activity needs come grow an ext quickly 보다 this longer-run sustainable trend speed to rise employment and bring joblessness down.

It have the right to take years to attain this employment objective. Hence, the Fed generally considers the sustainable trend to be the meant pace of development “over the longer run (say, five to 6 years from now) in the lack of shocks and also assuming appropriate monetary policy” (Danker 2012). We follow the same assumption in this Letter

In practice, however, provided past shocks, the convergence come this longer-run trend have the right to be faster or slow than five to six years. Concretely, as soon as the recovery started in 2009, the unemployment price was close come 10%. Unemployment has fallen steadily because then, which suggests that the economic climate has grown faster than its sustainable speed over this whole period. The present unemployment rate is less than 4%—much closer to its sustainable level than it was in 2009.

Demographics together a driver of slow-moving growth

Demographics room the vital reason future trend expansion is supposed to be low loved one to history. Number 1 shows that labor force development has slowed markedly since the 1970s, once baby boomers got to working age and also female authorized in the labor force rose rapidly. However, stagnating development in woman participation since the 1990s combined with projections for birth rates, immigration, and also mortality suggest growth of the traditional working-age populace ages 16-64 is slowing to a historically short pace.

Figure 1Labor supply development is slowing


Source: CBO (2018), Census Bureau.

The Congressional budget plan Office (CBO) jobs that the U.S. Job force and total work hours in the economic situation will thrive only around 0.5% per year in the mid-2020s (green dashed line). The labor pressure is intended to grow somewhat quicker than the 16-64 populace because about 20% of human being over age 64 continue to work—and this age group will grow very quickly. More precisely, to project job-related hours, CBO staff estimate participation trends within age, sex, and education groups and combine the with comprehensive forecasts the future demographics. The CBO’s estimates for participation fads are similar to those of Kudlyak and also Hornstein (2019), who follow a similar procedure.

Although the demographics are fairly predictable, there is part uncertainty around mapping it to longer-run hours. For example, if the only alters in participation come from the age distribution of the population, then employment would increase only around 0.4% per year. In other words, even reaching the CBO’s projected 0.5% would require some extr factor such as rising education and learning to progressive participation rates.

In contrast, intend the in its entirety labor pressure participation rate remained constant, despite the rapid expansion in the over-65 population. Then the labor force and also future hrs would grow about 0.3 portion points faster than in the CBO baseline. This extreme assumption would translate directly into 0.3 percentage point faster GDP growth, all else gift equal.

Slow productivity growth plus demographics imply low potential growth

Figure 2 shows development of actual GDP every hour, a wide measure of job productivity, damaged into periods due to the fact that 1973 the reflect sport in efficiency growth. Number 2 depicts how productivity expansion has shifted between normal and also exceptional durations (Fernald 2016). Unusually prominent innovations—such as the heavy steam engine, electrical dynamo, internal combustion engine, and also microprocessor—typically resulted in a hold of complementary technologies that raised productivity growth generally for a time.

Figure 2Labor productivity growth slowing


Source: bureau of economic Analysis.Note: Dashed environment-friendly line is average of 2004–2018.

This measure of productivity growth has slowed since 2004. The eco-friendly dashed heat in number 2 is productivity development averaged end 2004–2018, which is an extremely close to the 1973–1995 mean pace. Throughout the fast-growth duration from 1995 come 2004, productivity expansion averaged 2½%. During the slower durations of 1973–1995 and also 2004–2018, growth averaged only 1% to 1¼%, and also that pace dropped drastically lower many recently in 2010–2018.

The black dot in the number shows 2018 expansion in real GDP every hour the 1.1%. This is higher than the average growth rate over 2010–2018 and may imply a pickup in performance growth. However, in our view, that is finest to see the years due to the fact that 2004 as a whole; in this case, the 2018 speed is close to the duration average.

We focus on the average since 2004 because labor productivity has some persistent cyclical dynamics. The big shock that the an excellent Recession resulted in a temporary boost in productivity growth from 2007 to 2010 that has due to the fact that unwound. For one thing, less-skilled workers were much more likely come lose jobs in the an excellent Recession 보다 more-skilled workers, who typically have greater productivity. Because that another, businesses come out of the great Recession with ample productive capacity but limited demand. End time, rises in capacity per worker are an important source of performance growth, however for a time ~ the recession, businesses could meet the recovery in need without investing. Hence, that volume channel to be temporarily dialed down.

Once we average over the transitory ups and downs, it shows up that we have remained in a slow growth regime because that the previous 15 years. Energy generally show up persistent—lasting a decade or longer. Because that this reason, ours most most likely or “modal” calculation is that the slow-growth routine will continue for at least the next few years.

That said, productivity is very uncertain in both a statistical and an economic sense. Under the program view of productivity growth, lot of the statistical uncertainty is around which regimen we will be in. Neither economic experts nor statisticians have actually a an excellent track document of forecasting alters in trend productivity growth. In addition, also within a regime, efficiency is naturally volatile indigenous year come year.

Economically, major technological gains could remain narrowly focused, leaving modest and also incremental productivity development as the norm because that the more comprehensive economy, together we i think in our benchmark. Or, we might see one more broad-based tide of the the revolution. Alternatively, future growth might look substantially various from the past, mirroring the innovative contribute of robots and machine learning.

Despite this inherent uncertainty, our best guess is the productivity development over the next 5 to 6 years will be in line through previous slow-moving regimes. During those regimes, GDP per hour rose about 1–1¼% per year.

Projection of output growth

In number 3, we include projections the hours and also productivity expansion to estimate future output growth. As a point estimate, we use the 2004–2018 average of 1.1% every year development in GDP per hour. Combine that through the CBO’s projected expansion in hours of 0.5% every year outcomes in our preferred modal calculation for GDP expansion of 1.6% every year.

Figure 3Scenarios for output growth: slow and also fast job productivity


If hours were to grow an ext slowly than the CBO projection, say 0.4%, it would result in output farming only 1.5%. Even in the extreme situation in i beg your pardon aging walk not reduced the overall employment rate, output can grow only around 1.9%, as presented in the left-hand side green bar in number 3. Hence, without a resurgence in performance growth, output expansion is i can not qualify to return repetitively to 2%, let alone 3%. 

Of course, the right-hand group of bars in figure 1 shows output growth could return to 3% if efficiency growth speeds up like the did in the last fast-growth regime. Keep in mind that we have seen prolonged periods of slow-moving productivity growth before. What us haven’t seen prior to is slow productivity growth linked with weak expansion in hours.

Other considerations

Fernald (2016) provides a much more formal analysis of development fundamentals and also argues that 2 economic factors not individually analyzed below largely counter each other. ~ above the one hand, his in-depth growth model argues that physical and intangible capital deepening should provide a bigger productivity an increase than we experienced historically since the price of investment goods have declined an ext quickly. On the other hand, Bosler et al. (2019) argue the labor quality, sometimes referred to as human capital, will add less every year come productivity expansion than it has actually historically, due to the fact that we will not repeat the huge 20th century increase in educational attainment.

Our benchmark suspect that any kind of investment or job supply results from the 2017 tax Cuts and Jobs plot (TCJA) will have minimal impacts on potential growth five to 6 years out. This is consistent with the evaluation in Congressional spending plan Office (2018) and also other studies. These imply any an increase to investment and also labor supply development is likely to be temporary, with small impact on potential GDP growth past the next few years.


The solid development in GDP over the previous year naturally raises the question of even if it is we have been understating the potential trend. Nevertheless, it is much too beforehand to declare that trend expansion is higher than present estimates the 1.6–1.7%. The most herbal interpretation that the toughness in hours functioned is that any type of structural aspect represents an impact on the level of employment, hours, and potential output—perhaps in an answer to the TCJA—not a persistent growth effect. Policy transforms such as family-friendly policies common in other OECD economies can lead come trend rises in labor pressure participation (Daly et al. 2018). However such policies are i can not qualify to be enforced soon.

John Fernald is a senior research torture in the financial Research department of the federal Reserve financial institution of mountain Francisco.

Huiyu Li is a an elderly economist in the financial Research department of the commonwealth Reserve bank of san Francisco.


Bosler, Canyon, mar C. Daly, man G. Fernald, and also Bart Hobijn. 2019. “The Outlook because that U.S. Labor-Quality Growth.” thing 3 in Education, Skills, and Technical Change: implications for Future U.S. GDP Growth, eds. Charles R. Hulten and also Valerie A. Ramey. Cambridge, MA: nationwide Bureau of financial Research, pp. 61–110.

Congressional spending plan Office. 2018. The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 come 2028. Report, April.

Daly, mar C., Joseph H. Pedtke, Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau, and Annemarie Schweinert. 2018. “Why aren’t U.S. Workers Working?” financial Letter 2018-24 (November 13).

Danker, Deborah. 2012. “Request for January Projections.” Memo to Governors and also Reserve bank Presidents from FOMC Secretariat, January 13.

Fernald, John. 2016. “Reassessing Longer-Run U.S. Growth: how Low?” FRB mountain Francisco Working file Series 2016-18.

Hornstein, Andreas, and also Marianna Kudlyak. 2019. “Aggregate Labor pressure Participation and Unemployment and Demographic Trends.” FRB mountain Francisco Working paper 2019-07, February.

Opinions to express in economic Letter execute not have to reflect the see of the management of the commonwealth Reserve bank of mountain Francisco or the the board of Governors the the federal Reserve System.

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This publication is edited by Anita Todd v the help of Karen Barnes. Permission come reprint should be acquired in writing.