The Output Gap: A “Potentially” Unreliable Measure of Economic Health?

Excerpt from a newsletter by Elise A. Marifian, Research Analyst at the St. Louis Fed, describing problems with calculation of the hypothetical output gap and how this can lead to incorrect monetary policy:

Some economists question the reliability of potential output and, therefore, output gap measures. For instance, as James Bullard noted in 2009, if calculations had considered the housing boom and bust, then potential GDP and output gap measurements would have been smaller than they appeared…….. Gavin (2012) shows that the output gap calculations for 2003-12 are reduced significantly when 2011 estimates of potential GDP are used in place of 2007 estimates. If our economy is improving faster than current output gap measurements suggest, then monetary policy intended to boost the economy could produce too much stimulation, thereby fueling inflation once the economy begins to pick up steam.

via Page One Economics – St. Louis Fed.