ECONversations - November 18, 2013

In the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's latest ECONversations webcast, Research Director Dave Altig updated viewers on three key measures of the economy's performance—gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment and jobs, and inflation.

The November 18 event was the second of the Atlanta Fed's twice-yearly economic webcasts geared toward banking professionals. About 130 bankers tuned in for the session, which also featured Public Affairs Vice President Mike Chriszt.

Key data paint mixed picture
U.S. GDP grew at a relatively healthy pace of 2.9 percent in the third quarter, beating many analysts' expectations. However, a sizable share of that growth is being driven by a buildup in inventories—and that effect is likely to dissipate in future quarters, Altig said. As a result, GDP will probably end the year around 2 percent. On balance, "GDP numbers haven't lived up to what we'd like to see," he told viewers.

Meanwhile, the employment picture has improved significantly since the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced a third round of bond buying in September 2012. "It's one of the better pieces of news on the economic outlook that we have to offer," Altig said. The economy has steadily added between 180,000 to 200,000 net jobs per month. That's been enough to bring down the unemployment rate faster than many forecasters—including those at the Atlanta Fed—expected, he said.

Altig also updated viewers on the other half of the Fed's dual mandate—price stability. There's no evidence of disinflationary or, even worse, deflationary pressures in the economy. However, inflation remains well below the FOMC's 2 percent goal, he said.