Agree to Disagree? Predictions of U.S. Nonfarm Payroll Changes between 2008 and 2020 and the Impact of the COVID19 Labor Shock

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Abstract

We analyze an unbalanced panel monthly predictions of nonfarm payroll (NFP) changes between January 2008 and December 2020 sourced from Bloomberg. Unsurprisingly, we find that prediction quality varies across economists and we reject the hypothesis of equal predictive ability. In an error decomposition, we find evidence of significantly biased forecasts. Participation rate in the survey is affecting this bias. We find that survey participants under-predict job losses in times of market turmoil while also under-predicting the recovery thereafter, especially during the COVID19 labor shock. For prediction of NFP changes, autoregressive models are outperformed by a deep learning long short-term memory network. However, the consensus forecast yields better forecasts than model-based approaches and are further improved by combining the forecasts of the best performing economists. The COVID19 labor shock is shown to have adverse effects on the prediction performance of economists. However, not all economists are affected equally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-286
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Volume194
Early online date29 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 29 Nov 2021

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