Now again the myth that this is caused by machines displacing human workers resurfaces.
Yet if that was true then productivity growth would have increased, whereas in reality it has decreased from the 1990s. when the employment rate reached an all time high. Between 1990 and 2000, average annual GDP growth was 3.4% while average employment growth was 1.45%. Between 2000 and 2010, average annual GDP growth was just 1.5% while average employment growth was 0.15% (that the employment rate has dropped is thus more than entirely due to population growth). This means that productivity growth fell from 1.95% in the 1990s to 1.35% in the 2000s. In the 2006 to 2010 period, productivity grew even slower (1.2%).
It has become something of an annual tradition at this blog to summarize the yearly movement of a number of important currencies. This year, most currencies didn't change very dramatically against the U.S. dollar for the year as a whole. 5 currencies rose, three of which (the Australian and New Zealand dollars and the U.K. pound) only marginally. Only the yen and the yuan rose significantly, but far from dramatically. The other fell, but it was only the Brazilian real and the Indian rupee that did so in a really significant way.
It should however be noted that this yearly change masks more dramatic intra-year changes, as the U.S. dollar fell, driven by QE2, against almost all other currencies and usually significantly so during the first half. During the second half, it rebounded as QE2 ended and as the dollar's "safe haven" status during the European debt crisis increased demand for it.
New Zealand dollar: +1.5%
Australian dollar: +1.3%
Swiss franc: -0.1%
Norwegian krone: -1.3%
Canadian dollar: -1.6%
Swedish krona: -1.7%
South Korean won:-2.4%
Brazilian real: -10.7%
Indian rupee: -15.5%
One criticism against the payroll tax cut that has frequently been made from conservative and libertarian economists is that it is temporary, and because people supposedly make decisions on permanent conditions it will have no effect.
This argument has a limited degree of truth in it as it is true that if taxation of investments are reduced by say 5 percentage points for one year, it will have less effect on investments that last more than a year than a "permanent" tax rate reduction of 5 percentage points. Just how great the difference is depends on how long the investment will last (the longer, the greater difference it makes).
However, because total after tax return still rises, it will still promote any investments that generates profits within a year.
Furthermore, the payroll tax reduction isn't about investments, at least not directly, it instead has a positive effect in the form of boosting labor supply, something that increases employment in part through a reduction in frictional unemployment and in part by lowering labor costs. Given the limited degree of wage rigidity that exists cutting the employer's share of the payroll tax cut would have been more effective, but
But don't businesses hire people based on long-term factors? Well, they often do, but there is no rational reason for them not take advantage of temporarily lower labor costs by hiring people temporarily given that America's flexible "hire and fire" laws makes it very easy and costless to fire employees.
Furthermore, it should be noted that no tax rate is really permanent (which is why I've put quotation marks around it except here) since they can, and very frequently have historically been change. While a "permanent" change is in the United States somewhat more difficult to change due to the fact that the two chambers of Congress and the President can usually block them if they want, that is as the historical record illustrates a difference of degree, not kind.
The real problem with temporary instead of "permanent" tax cuts isn't therefore so much that the short term effect is smaller. The real problem is that once the tax cuts expire, the positive effects will expire too, meaning that it will lower future growth, largely cancelling out the short term positive effect.
Some analysts are trying to put a positive spin on the unprecedented drop in the labor force participation rate as simply being a question of more people seeking to get more education. I find it indeed quite likely too that a very large portion of those that have dropped out of the labor force have started in school again.
But that begs the question of why do they want to go back to school? Because it's fun or because it's interesting? Not likely, except perhaps for a small minority. Instead, the reason why they go back to school is because they're unable to find a job and thinks that additional education will enable them to get a job. That may perhaps be a good idea for the people in question, but that doesn't in anyway change their status as discouraged, hidden unemployed as almost all would quit school and immediately take a job if they could (at least assuming it's a steady job).