The Federal Reserve may or may not elect to raise its target on the federal funds rate when it meets on Thursday. Yet either way, the much-anticipated decision is unlikely to have nearly as great an impact on the economy as it might have 30 years ago.
Such is the argument in a recently released paper from the Kansas City Fed, which posits that changes in financial markets and the American economy have reduced the import of changes to the interbank lending rate.
Before 1985, an unexpected 25 basis point cut in the federal funds rate would have led to a 0.2 percent increase in employment over the next two years, the study noted. But in the post-1994 period, the effect on employment is statistically insignificant, find Jonathan Willis and Guangye Cao of the Kansas City Fed.
This is obviously problematic, given that the Fed describes its ultra-low interest rate target as intended to "support continued progress toward maximum employment." If the impact of a shifting fed funds rate target on employment is indeed nil, then this strategy makes little sense.
Perhaps even more troubling, it means that the Fed's primary tool for helping the economy has been, at best, severely blunted.