Philippe Goulet Coulombe
The Macroecononomy as a Random Forest
I develop Macroeconomic Random Forest (MRF), an algorithm adapting the canonical Machine Learning (ML) tool to flexibly model evolving parameters in a linear macro equation. Its main output, Generalized Time-Varying Parameters (GTVPs), is a versatile device nesting many popular nonlinearities (threshold/switching, smooth transition, structural breaks/change) and allowing for sophisticated new ones. The approach delivers clear forecasting gains over numerous alternatives, predicts the 2008 drastic rise in unemployment, and performs well for inflation. Unlike most ML-based methods, MRF is directly interpretable --- via its GTVPs. For instance, the successful unemployment forecast is due to the influence of forward-looking variables (e.g., term spreads, housing starts) nearly doubling before every recession. Interestingly, the Phillips curve has indeed flattened, and its might is highly cyclical.