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Good news about jobs! Bad news about jobs! The reports disagree.

3 August 2012

Summary:  Looking at today’s employment report (PDF here) we can draw one big conclusion. The economy continues to growth more slowly than we’d hope given the massive on-going monetary and fiscal stimulus programs (which cannot be continued forever). Oddly enough, this is not obvious to everyone.

Contents

  1. Good news. Bad news. Take your choice
  2. The cumulative change 2012 has been small
  3. This is bad news; worse might lie ahead
  4. For more information

(1)  Good news. Bad news. Take your choice

Compare the July employment report results (seasonally adjusted) to the 90% confidence level for the monthly employment reports using the two metrics the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides. This month they disagree big-time.

(a)  The household survey (CPS, source of the unemployment rate): a loss of 195,000 jobs in July, + or – 280,000 (not a statistically significant change).  The population increased by 199,000, the labor force dropped by 150,000 and the number not in the labor force increased by 348,000.  The report didn’t mention these odd swings.

(b)  The establishment survey of non-farm employment (CES): a gain of 163,000 +or – 100,000 (a statistically significant change).  Quite an improvement over recent CES monthly changes:

  • April: +68,000
  • May:  +87,000
  • June:  +64,000

(2)  The cumulative change 2012 has been small

The monthly numbers are noisy. More useful are the longer-term trends.

(a)   The not seasonally adjusted change over the past 12 months of non-farm jobs per the establishment survey: 1.83 million (1.4%). That’s faster growth than both population and the labor force, both roughly 1%/year.

Due to revisions to the data, year-over-changes in the household survey are too complex for us to do here.

.

(b) Look at the changes this year, the seasonally adjusted change from January to July (in thousands). The two reports have diverged somewhat on the number and per cent change in jobs YTD., with the establishment report showing faster growth than the household report.  More important is that both show growth, roughtly steady over the past year.

The establishment survey:

Jan-12 July-12 Change % Change
132,461 133,245 784,000 0.6%

.
The household survey provides looks at the civilian non-institutionalized population (age 16+):

Class Jan-12 July-12 Change % Change Annualized
Population 242,269 243,354 1,085 0.4% 0.9%
Not in labor force 87,874 88,340 466 0.5% 1.1%
Labor Force 154,395 155,013 618 0.4% 0.8%
Employed 141,637 142,220 583 0.4% 0.8%
Unemployed 12,758 12,794 36 0.5% 0.6%

.
(3)  The details show continued slow growth

Many who look at these numbers debate the tiny details, but ignore the large fact: both measures show slow recovery from the depths of the recovery. Very slow recovery. These numbers are less accurate than the headline numbers.

  • The number of long-term unemployed continue to shrink, down 16% YoY to a still-high 5.2 million.
  • The number of discouraged workers (drop-outs from the labor force) continues to shrink, down 24% YoY to 852,000.
  • Libertarians rejoice! The number of government employees continues to shrink, down 105,000 YoY (0.5%) to 22 million.
  • With so many companies closely managing their workers’ hours, average weekly hours might no longer tell us much. It’s flat YoY at 34.5.
  • The number of full-time jobs have risen faster than part-time (2.1% vs. 1.4%, from the Household survey). There are 27 million part-time jobs and 116 million full-time jobs.
  • The alternative measures of unemployment (there is no “right” number) als0 improve.  The broadest metric (the U-6) has dropped from 16.3% last July to 15.2% now (non-seasonally adjusted).

(4)  The big picture

We are applying powerful fiscal and monetary stimulus to get this slow recovery.  Near-zero interest rates plus borrowing $1.3 trillion dollars over the past 12 months — 8.3% of GDP — and we get only a 1.4% increase in jobs.  America’s economy is among the strongest in the world lately, but only because of our borrowing. Italy’s deficit is aprox 2.4% of GDP; cut our deficit by 70% and our economy probably would look like Italy’s.

So far no evidence of the powerful sustainable recovery the optimists have promised so many times since the trough in Spring 2009. The reason is obvious: the stimulus provided first aid. It stabilized the economy, buying time for measures to rebalance our warped somewhat dysfunctional economy. We wasted that time, as we squandered our government’s spending (eg, our infrastructure is still rotting away).  We have borrowed $6 trillion since the recession began in December 2007 (data here); we cannot keep this up forever.

Now for the bad news: the world economy is slowing.  The economic and social stress of a slowly growing world might be heavenly compared to what lies ahead if the world slumps again into recession in its weak condition.

Really awful would be a US recession. One starting with an 8.3% unemployment rate and an 8%+ fiscal deficit.

But we’re probably not in a recession yet. The most reliable real-time indicators suggest stablity, or slowing growth. If you watch just one indicator, I recommend the weekly new claims for unemployment. It clearly flagged our descent into the 2008-09 crash.

For More Information about the US economy

  1. A status report about the US economy (we party so hard we cannot hear the alarms ringing), 27 March 2012
  2. About America’s economic recovery: the good news and the bad, 1 May 2012
  3. About the May jobs report – a few new jobs, bought at great cost, 1 June 2012
  4. The Titanic’s lessons for us about the coming economic crisis, 4 June 2012
  5. America is rich and powerful because we can borrow. Will this debt build a stronger America?, 5 June 2012
  6. US economic update. Everything that follows is a result of what you see here., 8 June 2012
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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Pluto permalink
    3 August 2012 3:29 pm

    Great analysis as usual, FM.

    My only caveat is that there is still, in my opinion, a chance for a perceived (if not actual) recession before the election. Very slow growth can be spun into a serious threat of recession if you throw enough money at it and (per NPR this morning) Romney is outspending Obama 2-1.

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    • 3 August 2012 9:39 pm

      I agree. That’s an important point. Individuals cannot directly perceive many important phenomena. GDP and employment in economics, where we see only the specific circumstances of our immediate and adjacent households and businesses. Climate change, even at the local level, where the daily and annual changes dwarf the tiny trends.

      In both cases we rely on others to aggregate and explain trends, which although of great importance to us, cannot be directly seen by us.

      Hence our vulnerability to misrepresentation and lies. In economics they are legion. Ditto in climate. For example, Steve Goddard documents the rash of local news media articles about horrific climate change (usually temperature and sea level) in areas where the local records clearly show no such change (global trends — homes prices or heat — do not affect every area at the same rate, or at all).

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  2. 3 August 2012 3:50 pm

    With all the detailed nuances in these Reports, this is a good fair summary from FM, I think.

    The best metaphor I have heard recently to descibe our pathway is:
    We are on a Jumbo Jet, trying to climb and really in a upward nosed Stall.
    Headwinds, sidewinds, rain squalls make this orientation quite precarious as we could lose wing speed. (quite easily)

    Breton

    Like

  3. Unna permalink
    3 August 2012 10:32 pm

    Interesting how little bang there’s been considering the Trillions that have been thrown at this problem. Somehow printing money so the FED can pump up financial asset prrices for the banks and the stock market just hasn’t helped the real economy. Looks like under some circumstances, low interest rates just aren’t enough.

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    • 4 August 2012 12:07 am

      “Interesting how little bang there’s been considering the Trillions that have been thrown at this problem.”

      I hear that all the time, usually (but not always) from Republicans.

      I say the same thing when walking through the hospital. Lots of sick folks. Cancer, heart disease, etc. Often fortunes have been spent but they’re still sick. Look at the waste! There are accident victims that get thousands of dollars of blood transfusions — but the’re still sick! I tell the docters to stop wasting money, but they don’t listen!

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      4 August 2012 1:22 am

      I am not, nor have I ever been, a Republican. Anyway, Bernanke, whose policy this is, is in fact a Republican for real. And I don’t see Mitt denouncing this policy either. So I have to assume that the policy of zero interest rates coupled with financial asset purchases etc by the Fed is essentially and fundamentally a republican policy.

      But, in my state of confusion, I observe that this also must be Obama’s policy, since he doesn’t object to it, and in fact reappointed Bernanke to a second term. So we have a Democratic president supporting a Republican monetary policy which is pursued by his own appointees; at the FED with Bernanke – a current republican – and at Obama’s treasury department through Geithner – a former Republican now currently a Democrat.

      ***

      On a less confusing note, Prince Bandar may by now be said to have achieved Schrödinger Cat Status as being both alive and dead at the same time until he should actually be observed in one or the other of these states. A primer in the political uses of Quantum Theory is this article: “A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney“, David Javerbaum, op-ed in New York Times, 31 March 2012.

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    • 4 August 2012 1:49 am

      (1) “I am not, nor have I ever been, a Republican.”

      I am a Republican, and have been for 30 years.

      (2) “Interesting how little bang there’s been considering the Trillions that have been thrown at this problem.”

      When we speak of “$ thrown at this problem” we’re usually speaking of fiscal policy — government spending — not monetary policy (changing monetary aggregate or interest rates). As you know, the Fed has no role in setting government spending.

      (3) “financial asset purchases etc by the Fed”

      That policy was a total success, as its purpose was to save the banks. Which it did. These purchases were investments, not spending. They might cost nothing, or even prove profitable; we’ll know when these are all wound down.

      (4) “I have to assume that the policy of zero interest rates coupled with financial asset purchases etc by the Fed is essentially and fundamentally a republican policy. … So we have a Democratic president supporting a Republican monetary policy”

      Not at all. Many aspects of public policy are non-partisan, from fire-fighting to economic policy. That is, they are within the broad consensus of a society at that point of time. These monetary policies were implemented during the crash by governments run by a wide range of ideologies, from the Bush Jr hard-rock conservatives to the commies in China.

      (5) “Prince Bandar may by now be said to have achieved Schrödinger Cat Status”

      I suggest that we assume Bandar is alive until evidence shows otherwise. The websites making these claims are not reliable.

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      4 August 2012 3:10 am

      “I hear that all the time, usually (but not always) from Republicans.” So I thought you were suggesting I was critical of Fed policy because I might be a Republican. My mistake.

      “That policy was a total success, as its purpose was to save the banks.”

      Of course it might have been better to put the banks in receivership and recapitalize the banking system with fed money, but since that’s a counter factual argument, I’ll leave it alone except to suggest that the real economy and/or the banks must still be in very bad shape considering the Fed’s persistent zero interest rate policy and the persistent talk/hope of more QE. Some success.

      “Many aspects of public policy are non-partisan, from fire-fighting to economic policy. That is, they are within the broad consensus of a society…”

      Well, the last time I lived in the inter-mountain West fire fighting cum logging were very much highly controversial partisan issues with no social consensus whatsoever and with frequent resorts to actual violence.

      FM, there is no such thing as a socially neutral economic policy. All economic positions, tax policies, monetary positions etc all serve interests. To the extent that financial interests control both the Democrats and the Republicans, these issues are made to appear to be “non-partisan” but they are certainly not disinterested as one might say that the rules of mathematics are disinterested. Our elites are very much interested, and they use the image of non partisanship to secure their interests.

      “I suggest that we assume Bandar is alive until evidence shows otherwise. The websites making these claims are not reliable.”

      That’s why I said that Bandar had achieved Schrödinger Cat Status. I thought it amounted to saying the same thing. It was a joke.

      Like

    • 4 August 2012 3:41 am

      I agree with most of what you say.

      (1) “Of course it might have been better to put the banks in receivership and recapitalize the banking system with fed money”

      Agreed. But that was and is outside the political consensus of both parties.

      (2) “the last time I lived in the inter-mountain West fire fighting cum logging were very much highly controversial partisan issues”

      Perhaps about the fire-fighting (certainly about logging). But more relevant is their reaction to firefighters when their homes are burning.

      (4) “there is no such thing as a socially neutral economic policy.”

      Agreed. My point was that there is along-standing bipartisan consensus about US foreign and economic policy. That consensus covers only a small fraction of public policy options. IMO all sensible policies for health care and foreign affairs lie outside the US area of consensus.

      (5) “It was a joke.”

      I have a defective sense of humor. Although I once wrong a funny geopolitical article: Top Secret US Government Documents about Iraq, 11 February 2006. It provoked a flood of outraged responses from people with no sense of humor. The Editor forbid further funny articles.

      Like

  4. Thomas More permalink
    4 August 2012 2:07 am

    Unna remarks “Interesting how little bang there’s been considering the Trillions that have been thrown at this problem.”

    Unbelievable tripe. That near-trillion bucks avoided another Great Depression. As in: 25+% unemployment, mass rioting, mass starvation, state police posted at the highways leading into every state with guns and huge billboards reading UNEMPLOYED MEN KEEP GOING, WE CAN’T FEED OUR OWN.

    Or maybe you’d prefer another rerun of those Bonus Marchers getting trampled by mounted army troops who are armed with sabers…?

    You can say what you like about Obama’s economic record, but right at the start of his administration, he figured out exactly what he had to do and he did it. Criticizing Obama’s massive stimulus to the economy to prevent another Great Depression and a catastrophic 15%-or-more collapse in the U.S. GDP and a lethal deflationary death spiral is like bitching and whining about your broken arm after you’ve bailed out of an airplane and landed on the ground. “A fat lot of good that parachute did me! I should never have wasted all that money on it!”

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    • 4 August 2012 2:30 am

      “You can say what you like about Obama’s economic record, but right at the start of his administration, he figured out exactly what he had to do and he did it. ”

      Agreed. However, Obama’s economic (and national security) policy was an extension of the Bush Jr administration’s policies.

      Like

  5. Unna permalink
    4 August 2012 6:24 am

    “Interesting how little bang there’s been considering the Trillions that have been thrown at this problem.”

    Really, folks, this is a pretty anodyne statement. Think for a moment of all the fire power, both fiscal and monetary, that has been employed. Obama was very correct in his stimulus program and its fault was in that it was too small. I suggest that Obama supporters may want to inquire about why that was so.

    In any case, I believe the stimulus should have been more and continuous with semi permanent employment programs until the economy righted itself. Except for the tax cuts, it was real money going into the real economy. That was a good thing, as they say. And still, the economy is either in recession or close to it with 8% plus unemployment, semi permanent zirp etc. Don’t you find that amazing? Mine was more a statement about the gravity and character of the economic problems we have than anything else.

    “Somehow printing money so the FED can pump up financial asset prices for the banks and the stock market just hasn’t helped the real economy. Looks like under some circumstances, low interest rates just aren’t enough.”

    Really, has monetary policy alone, even that which has affected the stock market positively, put these people back to work? Look around you.

    “Unbelievable tripe. That near-trillion bucks avoided another Great Depression. As in: 25+% unemployment, mass rioting, mass starvation, state police posted at the highways leading into every state with guns and huge billboards reading UNEMPLOYED MEN KEEP GOING, WE CAN’T FEED OUR OWN.”

    Well, now, we really don’t know that, do we? It’s a counter factual and so is a matter of speculation. Personally, I believe that Obama’s stimulus program was good but not enough. I speculate that Bernanke’s monetary policies have indeed kept the banks in business, but may not have had very much affect on the real economy. Is that thought so “unbelievable”?

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    • 4 August 2012 2:39 pm

      Unna,

      Whatever your personal political beliefs, and that you advocate somewhat leftist prescriptions (which I agree with), your analysis is standard GOP boilerplate. This is a commonplace today, and IMO why the Right is winning. More specifically, why Obama’s policies have so closely continued those of Bush Jr., despite the Left’s soaring hopes.

      (1) “Really, folks, this is a pretty anodyne statement”

      Anodyne: uncontentious or inoffensive.

      It’s inoffensive, but highly contentious. The effect of the fiscal and monetary stimulus programs is ground zero in the debate about US (and European) economic management.

      (2) “I suggest that Obama supporters may want to inquire about why that was so.”

      They have. At mind-bending length (although to what end I don’t know). To read about this I suggest starting with Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men (reviews here and here).

      (3) “And still, the economy is either in recession or close to it with 8% plus unemployment, semi permanent zirp etc. Don’t you find that amazing?”

      No, on several levels.

      • The 2008-09 shock was as great or greater than 1929-30 (depending on the metric), which started the global Great Depression.
      • The stimulus programs were poorly designed, in order to gain GOP acceptance (eg, with tax cuts a large share of the total, despite their low effectiveness).
      • The economy has been growing slowly since the 2009 trough, on the slow end of the post-WWII range of recoveries.
      • There is no evidence that the US economy is in recession, and little that we’re close to recession at this time.

      Employment has recovered unusually slowly, probably due to demographics (baby boomers retiring) and the next wave of automation (aka “the robot revolution” described here)

      (4) “Really, has monetary policy alone, even that which has affected the stock market positively, put these people back to work?”

      Belief that monetary policy is the only useful form of stimulus is a standard aspect of GOP thinking (like their anti-deficit rhetoric, not often applied in practice) going back to Milton Friedman. In many GOP circles it’s become an article of faith.

      (5) “Well, now, we really don’t know that, do we? It’s a counter factual and so is a matter of speculatio”

      Yep, like evolution.

      The efficacy of fiscal policy is shown by a very large body of both theory and historical evidence. As usual with such things, nobody wants to be the group getting the placebo in order to prove things so thoroughly proven true.

      (6) “Bernanke’s monetary policies have indeed kept the banks in business, but may not have had very much affect on the real economy. Is that thought so “unbelievable”?”

      No, not for someone who gets their information from Fox News and National Review. For anyone else, yes (which is why your comment seems unusual, IMO). Especially about the effectiveness of near-zero interest rates. I suggest reading about the liquidity trap and zero-bound problem. Wikipedia is an easy place to start, but any Econ 101 text will work better (or read through Paul Krugman’s columns of the past 4 years). There is nothing unusual or theoretically unique about our situation. Japan has lived here for over two decades.

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    • 4 August 2012 3:06 pm

      Correction made to above comment: employment growthing slowly due to demographics (baby boomers retiring) and the next wave of automation …

      Like

  6. Unna permalink
    4 August 2012 4:56 pm

    FM,

    Do you really think saying that someone having doubts about the end of the economic world scenario is the same thing as being an evolution denier? And I really don’t understand the “Republican boiler plate” accusation. I don’t watch Fox TV because I don’t own a TV. Perhaps you’ve been watching it too much and you are confusing the slop for the sheeple there with the securely held positions of the Republican Establishment which is exemplified by Romney. He very much supports monetary (Freedman) solutions over fiscal interventions that might benefit ordinary people. That’s what I identify as the the “Republican” position and I disagree with it. Not because it’s Republican but because it doesn’t seem to be working very well. Frankly, I really don’t know what the Fox News position is.

    As to long term zirp, it has been criticized by some as actually inhibiting lending at a certain point. (I believe this argument has been made by Bill Gross. I remember first hearing the argument years ago as applied to Japan.) As the risk of lending becomes higher than anticipated returns, lending itself is inhibited by low interest rates which otherwise are thought to encourage borrowing. Then there’s the destruction of worker pension plans which find it impossible to get the returns they need, the massive transfer of purchasing power from savers to speculators on Wall Street, the need to speculate to get yield which increases leverage and risk in the system. Yes, there are alternative and legitimate ways of understanding long term zirp. It’s been said that zirp is not working because this is a balance sheet recession, see Richard Koo of Nomura Securities, and not your ordinary slow down. There’s simply too much private debt in the system and because of that, households need to repair their balance sheets before lending can begin and true prosperity return.

    Of course, Krugman discounts the issue of private debt. But you know what, that’s his considered opinion. Other very serious people do have other opinions and their disagreement with Krugman does not make them evolution deniers.

    Sure, I like Krugman. I’ve read him for years so I don’t feel like rereading him again. But ridged attachment to orthodox opinion is is a disadvantage to thinking.

    Whether we’re at or near a recession is a matter that’s very much being debated. Let’s all hope that your optimism is correct.

    Look, we could go on and on about this. Let’s just gracefully agree to disagree.

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    • 4 August 2012 6:26 pm

      (1) “Do you really think saying that someone having doubts about the end of the economic world scenario is the same thing as being an evolution denier?”

      No, but then I didn’t say that. The point about “contrafacturals” is however structurally similar to rebuttals often used against well-established theories in science. Evolution is the most common example.

      (2) “I don’t watch Fox TV because I don’t own a TV”

      I didn’t say that you did. I said the opposite (“For anyone else…”). My point, repeatedly made, is that you’re echoing analytical theories used by opponents of the policy prescriptions you advocate. In fact those analytical views do contract your policy preferences. This is commonly seen on the left. For example in the frequent appearances of Zero Hedge and Mish Shedlock on Naked Capitalism and Matt Tabbi’s Rolling Stones blog. Perhaps this explains to some degree the failure you mention of the Obama Administration.

      (3) “it has been criticized by some as actually inhibiting lending at a certain point.”

      (a) Yes, that’s been said. There is zero evidence that this is so, and considerable evidence otherwise.

      (b) Bill Gross is not an economist — and his frequent (usually wrong) economic analysis shows (eg, “Gross Confusion“, Paul Krugman, NYT, 20 December 2011). Also note his long series of incorrect forecasts shows (eg, Krugman, 30 August 2011 and Krugman, 16 October 2011). Gross’ performance markedly declined once his excellent economist, Paul McCulley, left (see “The Decline of Pimco Macro“, Krugman, NYT, 10 June 2011).

      (4) “I remember first hearing the argument years ago as applied to Japan”

      Again, yes that’s said. It is truly cracked to expect large-scale private loan demand from a nation with stagnant real GDP since 1989. Blaming that on zero interest rates shows a radical misunderstanding of cause and effect for credit.

      (5) “As the risk of lending becomes higher than anticipated returns…”

      Totally wrong. You confuse ZIRP, which describes the risk-free rate of return (ie, short-term treasury rates) with private lending rates — which are ZIRP plus credit spreads. Credit spreads are unaffected by ZIRP. For evidence, look at credit card rates.

      (6) “there’s the destruction of worker pension plans”

      Yes, like any powerful medicine ZIRP has large, serious side-effects. That’s different than your previous — and wrong — assertion that ZIRP was ineffective.

      (7) “Of course, Krugman discounts the issue of private debt.”

      Yes, conservatives say this frequently. It’s false, as evident to anyone reading his work — both professional and in the general media (also, he’s written several columns explaining why this accusation is both false and silly). This is more evidence of my larger point, that (probably unknowningly) you are repeatedly echoing GOP economic views. This is the supreme evidence of their ascendency, when their views become unconsciously absorbed by their opponents.

      (8) “I like Krugman. I’ve read him for years so I don’t feel like rereading him again.”

      Perhaps you should, as this brief discussion suggests that you have not understood the major themes of his articles.

      (9) “Whether we’re at or near a recession is a matter that’s very much being debated.”

      Are we in a recession now? No that’s not “very much” being debated. There is a very tiny number of economists who believe so (although I cannot think of any), since there are few (probably no) signs of that in the economic data.

      There is a debate about the odds of recession. A few economists say a recession is close (eg, the highly respected Economic Cycle Research Institute; see here and here). A larger group expects a recession in Q4 or 2013 (eg, Nouriel Roubini).

      Like

    • 4 August 2012 8:09 pm

      {off-topic, but a follow-up to the important point I made above)

      Another example of the Right winning in the most profound way possible: having their views adopted by the Left:

      Dems Nominate Anti-Gay Conspiracy Theorist for Senate“, Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, 3 August 2012 — Opening:

      Mark Clayton believes the federal government is building a massive, four-football-field wide superhighway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a secret plot to establish a new North American Union that will bring an end to America as we know it. On Thursday, he became the Tennessee Democrats’ nominee for US Senate.

      Clayton, an anti-gay-marriage activist and flooring installer with a penchant for fringe conspiracy theories, finished on top of a crowded primary field in the race to take on GOP Sen. Bob Corker this fall. He earned 26 percent of the vote despite raising no money and listing the wrong opponent on his campaign website. The site still reads, “DEDICATED TO THE DEFEAT OF NEO-CONSERVATIVE LAMAR ALEXANDER,” whom Clayton tried to challenge in 2008. (That year, he didn’t earn the Democratic nomination.)

      On his issues page, Clayton sounds more like a member of the John Birch Society than a rank-and-file Democrat. He says he’s against national ID cards, the North American Union, and the “NAFTA superhighway,” a nonexistent proposal that’s become a rallying cry in the far-right fever swamps. Elsewhere, he warns of an encroaching “godless new world order” and suggests that Americans who speak out against government policies could some day be placed in “a bone-crushing prison camp similar to the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn was sent or to one of FEMA’s prison camps.” (There are no FEMA prison camps.)

      In April 2008, Clayton issued a press release accusing Google of censoring his campaign website on behalf the Chinese government: …

      Like

  7. 5 August 2012 5:13 pm

    doesn’t the government tweek their employment records in certain ways to make things look better than they actually are?

    Like

    • 5 August 2012 5:26 pm

      There is no evidence that such a thing has ever happened. Also, it wouldn’t work. There are many indicators of employment: the ADP payroll data, unemployment claims (new and continuing), the various Fed regional surveys and Purchasing Manager indexes. They tend to paint the same picture. Tinkering with the Bureau of Labor Stats numbers would just raise questions.

      Like

    • 6 August 2012 3:03 pm

      what about the whole stir in left leaning media about them discrediting the underemployed, those who have been taken off of unemployment payroll, those who have just given up on finding a job and any others?

      Like

    • 6 August 2012 3:32 pm

      (1) “discrediting the underemployed”

      Total nonnsense. BLS counts people and jobs. Any meaning to the numbers comes from the reader. Those complaints are part of the looney left’s fascination with controling reality by the labels applied.

      (2) “whose who have been taken off of unemployment payroll, those who have just given up on finding a job and any others?”

      What about them? They’re in the numbers, clearly counted. What more would you like BLS to do?

      Like

  8. 6 August 2012 2:49 pm

    The first major US economist to say that the US is now in recession: Gary Shilling (twice Chief Economist at MER, now runs his own shop).

    Shilling: New recession has begun“, MarketWatch, 3 August 2012 — Excerpt:

    Shilling, a perennial contrarian, said that when economists sift through all the data, they will say the next U.S. recession began in the second quarter of 2012.

    Earlier this year, Shilling predicted a global recession would occur in 2012; now, it’s well under way in Europe and he said it already has hit our shores. Read Gold’s column {19 Jan} about Shilling’s prediction of a global recession in MoneyShow.com. “I think the U.S. is in recession,” he told me in a phone interview last week.

    But here’s the good news, if you can call it that: He expects this to be a brief, mild, cyclical recession, not the kind we had in 2008-2009. “I think the recession started in the second quarter and will run about a year,” he said. He predicts a decline in GDP of 3.5% from peak to trough “because I’m not looking for a financial crisis.” Europe, however, which does have a fiscal crisis, a financial crisis and everything in between should show a 6.5% decline from peak to trough, about in line with what we both suffered in the Great Recession, he said.

    … It’s also not on most economists’ radar screens. The latest data, released last Friday, indicate GDP is still growing by a modest 1.5% per annum. And David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal reported that “forecasters put the chances of a recession in the next 12 months at a reassuringly low 21%.” But GDP figures can be revised dramatically, and as Wessel wrote, “In August 2007, they put recession odds at 28%.”

    Shilling is particularly troubled by retail sales data, which were down for 3 consecutive months — March, April, and May. “That has happened 27 times,” he explained. “In 25 of the 27 times, we were in a recession or within three months of the start of a recession.” “Consumers had a mini-spending spree last year. That mini-spending spree has petered out and now they’ve cut back on spending.”

    Also, manufacturing data, which had been strong, has weakened noticeably. The Institute for Supply Management’s June manufacturing report came in at 49.7%, a big drop from May and in the contractionary zone below 50% for the first time since July 2009, an ominous sign.

    But what’s most troubling to Shilling is the same wall of debt that towers over us like the Green Monster over Fenway Park.

    Like

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