Konrad Zmitrowicz is a Director in the Commodities Division in the International Economic Analysis Department. Konrad specializes in macroeconomic forecasting and modeling as well as applied time series econometrics.
Oil prices have declined sharply over the past three years. While both supply and demand factors played a role in the large oil price decline of 2014, global supply growth seems to have been the predominant force. The most important drivers were likely the surprising growth of US shale oil production, the output decisions of the Organization of the Petro-leum Exporting Countries and the weaker-than-expected global growth that followed the 2009 global financial crisis.
Because commodity prices help determine Canada’s terms of trade, employment, income and, ultimately, inflation, it is important to understand what causes them to fluctuate. Since the early 1900s, there have been four commodity price supercycles—which we define as extended periods of boom and bust that can take decades to complete. Now in its downswing phase, the current supercycle started after growth in China and other emerging-market economies in the mid-1990s resulted in an unexpected demand shock. The extent of this downswing depends on numerous factors that are presently uncertain.
In the second half of 2014, oil prices experienced a sharp decline, falling more than 50 per cent between June 2014 and January 2015. A cursory glance at this oil price crash suggests similarities to developments in 1986, when the price of oil declined by more than 50 per cent, initiating an episode of relatively low oil prices that lasted for more than a decade.
This article provides a broad perspective on the performance of the labour market in Canada and the United States since the Great Recession. It also presents a simple way to summarize much of this information in a single composite labour market indicator (LMI) for both countries. The LMI suggests that the unemployment rate in Canada has evolved largely in line with overall labour market conditions since the recession, but may have modestly overstated the extent of recent improvement. The U.S. unemployment rate, in contrast, appears to have substantially overstated the post-recession improvement in labour market conditions.