Working Paper n°2019-09 – Capacity Utilization and the NAIRCU: Evidences of Hysteresis in EU countries – Federico Bassi

Most empirical studies provide evidence that the rate of capacity utilization is stable around a constant Non-accelerating inflation rate of capacity utilization (NAIRCU). Nevertheless, available statistical series of the rate of capacity utilization, which is unobservable, are constructed by assuming that it is stable over time. Hence, the stability of the NAIRCU is an artificial artefact. In this paper, we develop a method to estimate the rate of capacity utilization without imposing stability constraints. Partially inspired to the Production function methodology (PFM), we estimate the parameters of a production function by imposing aggregate correlations between the rate of capacity utilization and a set of macroeconomic variables, namely investment, labor productivity and unemployment. Our results show that the NAIRCU is not a constant rate but a non-stationary time-varying trend, and that chronicle under-utilization of capacity with stable inflation is a plausible equilibrium. Hence, persistent deviations of GDP might reflect persistent shocks to capacity utilization rather than exogenous shocks to total factor productivity. As a corollary, expansionary demand policies do not necessarily create permanent inflationary pressures if the NAIRCU is below full-capacity output, namely in post-crisis periods.

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