Saturday, July 9, 2011

The More Things Stay the Same

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Well, instead of being "surprised" by the June (lack of) Jobs Report, it seems the economists were "stunned" by the numbers (via Bloomberg):

Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said he was “stunned” by today’s U.S. employment report.

He wasn’t the only one.

Not a single economist among 85 surveyed by Bloomberg News correctly forecast the 18,000 increase in payrolls in June reported by the Labor Department. Estimates ranged from a low of 60,000 to a high of 175,000. The median was 105,000 -- almost six times the actual number.


It’s not unusual for payroll figures to fall outside of the range of economists’ forecasts. The same thing happened last month, as well as in October, November and December of last year.
That last paragraph should become a mantra for economists looking for excuses, but it most likely will not. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, there are always extraneous reasons for things happening within the economy. Like bad weather. And there will always be extraneous impacts that should be accounted for in any economic forecasting.

There have been a number of other articles/opinion pieces from yesterday and today that I have found interesting. While Bloomberg reported here that Warren Buffett is betting 'very heavily' against a "double-dip" recession (and that kinda scares me a little as I've predicted that there will be an official double-dip), the Wall Street Journal seems to be considering a double-dip quite possible.

Washington Beltway Villagers are still in the austerity mode with all the talk of the debt ceiling increase needing drastic cuts to accompany the increase. At least officially, although CNN points out that the GOP is once again claiming tax cuts as the route to employment Nirvana. But there are a few signs that the problems faced by millions just might be penetrating the consciousness of a few folks inside the Beltway. Today's Washington Post had this opinion piece from Pete Peterson himself pointing out:
Immediate spending cuts and revenue increases could be counterproductive in the context of today’s grim employment outlook, but we need to reach a grand bargain fast to prove to the world that America is back in business.
Mr Austerity "how can we destroy save Social Security" himself recognizes that government does have a role and unfettered and unconstrained slashing is the worst thing that can be done.

Dave Leonhardt in the NY Times Economix points out the austerity trap by invoking Hoover, Roosevelt, and Japan:
In all kinds of ways — consumer demand, the federal deficit, even the weather — the medium-term future is highly uncertain. But this uncertainty, while the main problem, is not the only problem. We are also committing an unforced economic error. We’re cutting government at the same time that the private sector is cutting.

It is the classic mistake to make after a financial crisis. Hoover and even Roosevelt made a version of it in the 1930s. The Japanese made a version of it in the 1990s. Now we are making it.
Reuters has an analysis reaching the same conclusion:
Data on Friday showed hiring ground to a near halt last month, driving the jobless rate up to 9.2 percent and casting doubt on whether a sluggish U.S. recovery would soon pick up steam.

This all but ensures the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at record lows well into 2012. But help probably won't be as forthcoming from Congress and the White House, which are locked in battle over cutting a $1.4 trillion budget deficit.

The problem is one of timing: Economists and investors fear that with weak labor and housing markets causing consumers to tighten their own belts, the last thing the economy needs is an aggressive dose of austerity from the federal government.
Ezra Klein at the Washington Post had this blog post on long term effects of unemployment including:
It makes you permanently poorer: In 2009, Till von Wachter, Jae Song, and Joyce Manchester released a study on what happened to the long-term earnings of laid-off workers after the 1982 recession. Immediately, laid-off workers experienced annual earnings 30 percent lower than those of workers who hadn’t lost their jobs. But even 15 to 20 years on, these workers experienced 20 percent lower wages than people who had kept their jobs decades previous


It makes you sicker: Being laid off has serious long-term health effects. William Gallo of Yale Medical School has found that people who are laid off near retirement are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Gallo, along with Jennie Brand and Becca Levy, have also found that being laid off or part of a branch closing increases one’s likelihood of depression.
So here we sit with more than 14M unemployed and between 25M - 30M (at least) un and underemployed, watching as the White House and Congress continue to dance in their stylized way around the real economic needs, here are a few other articles, pointing out some rather obvious things. However, as one who has seen obvious points be ignored by the folks in the bubble, it can't hurt to point things out for even the most willfully obtuse politicians. Things such as "Wages fall in sagging job market." Or "Job seekers get left out of the recovery." "More consumers getting behind on their bills" and "After 'mancession,' women getting left out of recovery."

The recovery has rolled into Wall Street and corporate profits. It has lifted the financial industry which created much of the original problem. But for those who aren't MOTU or Members of Congress able to pop for a $350 bottle of wine, we keep falling further and further behind. Which I guess, just means we get to sacrifice more rather than those poor poor rich people.

And because I can:

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