What Is the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium?

The Jackson Hole Economic Symposium is an annual symposium, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City since 1978, and held in Jackson Hole, Wyo., since 1981. Every year, the symposium focuses on an important economic issue that faces world economies. Participants include prominent central bankers and finance ministers, as well as academic luminaries and leading financial market players from around the world.

The symposium proceedings are closely followed by market participants, as unexpected remarks emanating from the heavyweights at the symposium have the potential to affect global stock and currency markets.

Key Takeaways

  • The Jackson Hole Economic Symposium conference is an annual and exclusive central banking conference to foster open discussion about important and current policy matters.
  • Papers and transcripts of the conference are compiled into proceedings books, which are posted on the website and published in a volume that is available for free online or in print.
  • Past topics of consideration at the conference include the impact of tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google on big companies (2018) and financial stability in the wake of a global recession (2016).

Understanding Jackson Hole Economic Symposium

The Jackson Hole Economic Symposium is one of the longest-standing central banking conferences in the world. The mission of the event is to foster an open discussion. Attendees are selected based on each year’s topic, with additional consideration given to create regional diversity among attendees. In a typical year, about 120 people attend, representing a variety of backgrounds and industries.

To foster the open discussion that has been so critical to the symposium’s success, attendance at the event is limited. In addition, while the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City receives numerous requests from media outlets worldwide, press attendance is also limited to a select group to provide transparency to the symposium, while not overwhelming or influencing the proceedings. All symposium participants, including members of the press, pay a fee to attend. The fees are then used to recover event expenses.

The topic for each annual symposium is chosen by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and it asks experts to write papers on related subtopics. More than 150 authors have presented papers on topics, such as inflation, labor markets and international trade. All such papers are available online

Additionally, transcripts of the proceedings are posted on the website when they become available. This process generally takes a few months. The papers and transcripts are compiled into proceedings books, which are both posted on the website and published in a volume that is available for free online or in print.

Example of Past Topics at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium

  • Changing Market Structures and Implications for Monetary Policy (2018): With the rise of tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google, has the amassed market power of such big companies hurt the broader economy, or could it? Do antitrust authorities need to take firmer action? 
  • Central bank balance sheets and financial stability (2016): In the wake of the global financial crisis, central banks worldwide used a variety of tactics to resuscitate their countries’ economies. While the traditional tactic of slashing interest rates to reduce borrowing costs was widely used, many central banks also took the more unconventional approach of beefing up their balance sheets by acquiring financial assets, such as sovereign, agency, and corporate bonds, and in some instances, stocks, in large quantities.
  • The causes of inflation (1984): A major and ongoing consideration for central bankers, central banks try to stay ahead of inflation by setting interest rates to prevent disruptive rapid price increases. However, these days, preventing inflation isn't as simple as it used to be. The global economy is awash in liquidity, normally an ignition source for inflation, as more money chases the same quantity of goods, leading to ever-higher prices, but inflation is nowhere to be found.