201807.06
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Much More Than Payrolls

There are two very big problems with these constant, increasingly shrill labor market anecdotes. The first is that they don’t end up meaning what the tellers think they do. The purpose of these stories is clear enough, it’s just that the logic doesn’t work in the end. Here’s another example from the Wall Street Journal…

201807.02
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There’s No Income So There Can’t Really Be Shortages

The plural of anecdote is not data. At any given time in any given economy you can find counterexamples. During the Great Depression, for example, millions of Americans were doing very well for themselves. It wasn’t difficult to locate and talk to those who were prospering during what was a legitimate catastrophe. It’s never all…

201806.20
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What Should Be Happening In Housing

The word “should” appears in way too much economic commentary. That’s true of the whole broad range of subjects that are related to the economy, but where “should” really comes up is in relation to the labor market. It’s really no mystery why given that the unemployment rate is at an extreme the rest of…

201806.15
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There Isn’t Supposed To Be The Two Directions of IP

US Industrial Production dipped in May 2018. It was the first monthly drop since January. Year-over-year, IP was up just 3.5% from May 2017, down from 3.6% in each of prior three months. The reason for the soft spot was that American industry is being pulled in different directions by the two most important sectors:…

201806.15
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A Lot Underneath Retail Sales

The retail sales report for the month of May 2018 was generally positive on the headline, which is to say it was one of the better months of recent years. Total sales growth was 6.35% year-over-year (unadjusted). A big part of it was due to an 18% year-over-year gain in retail sales at gasoline stations….

201806.07
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Recent Concerning Consumer Credit Trends Carry On Into April

US consumers continue to recover from their debt splurge at the end of last year. Combined with still weaker income growth, the Federal Reserve estimates that aggregate revolving credit balances grew only marginally for the fourth straight month in April 2018. To put it in perspective, the total for revolving credit (seasonally adjusted) is up…

201806.06
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Some Things Will Not Change, And That’s Why Nothing Changes

Auto sales improved only slightly in May 2018 from more dismal results over the prior few months. Unit and retail sales were projected to be +3.5% year-over-year last month. Almost immediately, these numbers (really just the plus sign) were celebrated as clear evidence that consumers were spending in true boom fashion. Encouraged by a strong…

201805.30
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Profits, Bubbles, And Labor That’s Missing But Not Unexplained

You’ve heard all the ridiculous explanations for the labor market’s big deficiency. When not attempting to characterize payrolls as strong, Economists have tried to explain the participation problem through opioids and Baby Boomers. According to this absurd theory, businesses just can’t find enough willing or able workers to grow in a more normal fashion. That’s…

201805.08
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Suggestions of Risk In Consumer Credit

Despite last month’s substantial revisions that wiped out most of “residual seasonality” from the seasonally adjusted revolving consumer credit series, it still remains for this year. The Federal Reserve staff eliminated the large swings in credit card use pivoting around the Christmas holiday. Consumers buy up a lot of stuff in advance of it, and…

201805.03
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Someone Is On Drugs, Alright

For the second straight quarter, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates US productivity growth was less than 1%. That’s not surprising given the weakening in output as measured by GDP, the data reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Productivity is the bridge between the BLS’s labor numbers and the more general economic…