201807.06
1
5

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…

201806.20
1
8

The Last Boiling Frog Gave Birth To The Modern Unemployment Rate

The origins of the modern unemployment rate were, of course, political in nature. Before, the question was simple: you were either employed or you weren’t. There weren’t so many various stages of condition, a gradation that today is as enthusiastically applied to the very definition of the labor force itself. In August 1937, Congress finally…

201806.01
3
7

The Unemployment Rate Is Useless, But That Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Useful

At a campaign rally in New Mexico in May 2016, Presidential Candidate Donald Trump returned to one of his favorite themes. It was a package deal. He first talked about NAFTA and what he considered the negative effects the trade agreement had had on American workers. That easily segued into what had by then become…

201805.30
1
7

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…

201805.24
1
4

Laboring Unnecessarily Over Housing Imbalances

There are three major housing related data series published each and every month. The first is on construction of new units, the intersection of real estate and the macro economy compiled by the Census Bureau. The second is the number of newly built single-family homes that have been sold, relating obviously to the level of…

201805.04
3
6

Three Point Nine, Still No Boundary For Sanity

For all its tortured economic history since 1989, Japan has never really had an unemployment problem. Going by its unemployment rate alone, conditions don’t ever appear to be all that out of line. At its worst, in both the dot-com recession as well as Japan’s experience during the Great “Recession”, the highest it ever got…

201804.11
2
2

Inflation Hysteria Takes Another Big Hit

As it turns out, those “transitory” inflation factors were worth only about 25 bps on the core CPI rate. This isn’t at all surprising and was as usual entirely predictable. But when you don’t have any answers there is a lamentable tendency toward denial or deliberate evasion, even if that leads toward the ridiculous. Base…

201804.06
4
6

Payroll Time

Never get hung up on one payroll report, good or bad. The Establishment Survey series, seasonally-adjusted and statistically smoothed as much as humanly possible, is still incredibly noisy. It didn’t used to be this way, which is an important clue that “something” has changed. The lack of consistency in the monthly measurement is as the…

201803.20
1
5

Choosing the Right Curves

The background for inflation hysteria was pretty simple. Globally synchronized growth meant acceleration in the US economy which would raise demand for labor. The unemployment rate, faulty as it has been, suggests that any further increase in labor utilization would just have to pressure wages – the competition for workers rises as the marginal supply…

201803.07
4
3

Really Looking For Inflation, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 What these unusually weak productivity estimates lean toward is, quite simply, the possibility the BLS has been overstating jobs gains for years. In early 2018, there is already the hint of just that problem in a 4.1% unemployment that doesn’t lead to any acceleration in wages and labor income. What it…