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In the coming up on two years that I have been writing about the economy, jobs, un and underemployment at this little corner of the Intertoobz, I've tried to admit when my predictions have been a bit off. Like here and here where last summer I predicted we would be in a double-dip recession by the end of 2011. While we didn't fall back into recession on the time frame I envisioned, I still see it as quite possible.
I do hope I get to admit being wrong on that. I so very much want to believe the economy is really improving and the jobs picture will brighten but I just can't shake the feeling that it is all smoke and mirrors.
Today, (Thursday, January 19), the report of Initial Jobless Claims for last week came out and once again, the economists are surprised. Via Bloomberg:
Claims plunged by 50,000 to 352,000 in the week ended Jan. 14, the lowest level since April 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 41 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 384,000. A Labor Department spokesman said the decrease reflected volatility seen during this time of year. The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations, decreased to 379,000 last week from 382,500.I am not at all surprised that last week's figures were revised upwards as that is the pattern over hte last few months at least. I did not make an official prediction but will admit that I thought this week's number would be back well above 400K. Once again, I do prefer to be wrong on these.
Jobless claims were projected to decrease from 399,000 initially reported for the prior week, according to the Bloomberg survey. Estimates ranged from 363,000 to 405,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up to 402,000.
But then I see articles across the Toobz like this from Tuesday from US News (via Yahoo) with the headline "Are We Entering a Jobless Recovery?" and I just want to weep at the incredible combination of stoopid and duplicity to that gives us such a headline. The Great Recession/Lesser Depression is supposed to have ended in June 2009 so we are 2 1/2 years into a "recovery" and US News is just now questioning that it may be jobless?
But there is a downside to the Fed's favorable report and the good news on Wall Street. While the economy is growing, few new jobs are being created. The unemployment rate fell from 9.4 percent in December 2010 to 8.5 percent in December 2011. But without more dramatic job growth, low-skilled workers and the long-term unemployed will continue to have a hard time finding a job.Unfortunately, the article doesn't get much better as it goes on to lay out standard "Gee, all you need is new training and education for the miracle to occur" when in fact, one of the groups hardest hit has been new college graduates from '08 - '11. Of course, if all we needed were training and skills to take all these jobs that are available, sure seems as if salaries would be rising in those areas with the needed new skills but that has not been happening.
Economists now fear that the United States is entering what is known as a "jobless recovery," an economic recovery in which few new jobs are created. If economic expansion continues without adding a significant number of jobs, many unemployed workers will simply be left behind with few job prospects.
Also from Tuesday was this piece from Reuters:
More than four years after the United States fell into recession, many Americans have resorted to raiding their savings to get them through the stop-start economic recovery.With all due respect to Reuters and the author(s) of this "Insight" piece, this should not be a surprise. We have record people on Unemployment for long term, unemployment that averages $330 per week across the country, people who have exhausted all levels of unemployment compensation yet still have rent or mortgages, utilities bills, and the need to keep themselves and their families alive. Do you have a better option?
In an ominous sign for America's economic growth prospects, workers are paring back contributions to college funds and growing numbers are borrowing from their retirement accounts.
Some policymakers worry that a recent spike in credit card usage could mean that people, many of whom are struggling on incomes that have lagged inflation, are taking out new debt just to meet the costs of day-to-day living.
American households "have been spending recently in a way that did not seem in line with income growth. So somehow they've been doing that through perhaps additional credit card usage," Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said on Friday.
Today, Alison Lin at MSNBC was a little closer to reality with this:
The sudden loss of a job has become, if not commonplace over the last years, at least not very surprising.But the banksters are at least mostly hitting their Wall Street predictions so it is all good I guess.
And yet, many Americans remain unprepared for not having an income. A new survey from Country Financial finds that one-third of Americans would immediately fall behind on their bills if they lost a job and were left with no income.
That’s virtually the same result that Country Financial got the last time they asked the same question, in July of 2009.
Which group lives in the bigger bubble, Wall Street or Beltway Villagers?
And because I can: