In November, Japanese unemployment was at 5.2%.
Many folks are comparing the Fed’s action today to those of the Bank of Japan in the “lost decade” (e.g.). I can’t quite peg down the comparison being made by Sumner, but Yglesias articulated it most clearly:
[Bernanke] knows that unemployment is a problem now and he believes that he could fight it, but that fighting it more aggressively would elevate the risk of inflation in the future and he thinks that reducing the possibility of future inflation is more important than reducing the reality of current unemployment. I think that’s nuts. But it’s an attitude the Bank of Japan has consistently maintained since the 1990s.
Here’s the employment to population ratio:
Its safe to say employment wasn’t a problem in the “lost decade” and there wasn’t too much weight put on inflation relative to unemployment.