Archives For Economic Indicators

Not sure when they changed the size of the bag (I don’t buy candy very often) but if it went to 11.4 ounces from 12 ounces and the price stayed the same, that’s the same as a 5% price increase. I also think it’s funny that the bag is a lot bigger than it needs to be based on the contents inside. Just another way companies mislead customers.

From Today’s WSJ:

U.S. households’ net worth—the value of homes, stocks and other investments minus debts and other liabilities—rose $1.2 trillion to $58.5 trillion from October through December, the first improvement in two quarters. The increase came as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied nearly 12%. A measure of households’ disposable personal income jumped, helping Americans keep a lid on debt, which fell to 113% of disposable income from 118% at the end of 2010.

From John Hussman’s latest commentary:

“…it’s useful to understand how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated the 243,000 increase in employment that it reported for January. Total non-farm employment in the U.S., before seasonal adjustments, fell by 2,689,000 jobs in January. However, because it’s typical for the economy to lose a large number of jobs after the holidays, largely in retail trade, construction, and manufacturing, the BLS estimated that the “normal” seasonal decline in employment should have been 2,932,000 jobs in January. The difference between the two numbers, of course, was 243,000 jobs, which was reported as an increase in employment. The fact that the size of the seasonal adjustment was more than 12 times the number of reported jobs, and more than 30 times the “beat” in economists’ expectations, should provoke at least some hesitation in taking the number at face value.”

In other words, the unemployment numbers are misleading.

Unemployment Now at 8.3%

February 3, 2012

Just saw a headline on about the latest unemployment figures.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 243,000 last month, the Labor Department said Friday, marking the biggest gain since April. The jobless rate fell by two-tenths of a point to 8.3%, the lowest it has been since February 2009.

Both figures contradicted expectations of a slowdown in job growth to start the year. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a gain of 125,000 in payrolls and that the jobless rate would remain at 8.5%.

The report also indicated that job growth was stronger in previous months than initially reported, with the economy gaining 60,000 jobs beyond the government’s preliminary figures for November and December.

The latest drop in the jobless rate, which is obtained from a separate household survey was largely because of genuine job growth rather than a reduction in the labor force, the report showed. The number of unemployed people fell to 12.8 million, a three-year low, and the jobless rate has fallen from 9.1% since August.

The way they massage the numbers, anything is possible.

I live in Southeast Texas. Things have never gotten too bad here. What about you? Do you see things improving in your part of the country? Personally, are you starting to see positive changes in your own finances?

There was an interesting article about the U.S. recovery in today’s WSJ. Included with the article was a section that showed several graphs comparing this recovery with recoveries of the past. Bottom line: this recovery stinks. I’ll sumarize the graphs for you:

According to the article, the recovery began in June 2009, when the recession ended. The graphs in the article compare this recovery to other recoveries at the same point in the recovery, which is two years.

GDP – “Quarterly economic output measured at an annual rate, adjusted for inlfation and the seasons.”

Current recovery: 5.5%
Average recovery: 10.1%
Worst recovery (1980): 1.6%
Best recovery (1949): 19.2%

Home Prices – “Quarterly, adjusted for inflation”

Current recovery: -8.8%
Average recovery: .6%
Worst recovery (1980): -10.1%
Best recovery (2001): 17.6%

Corporate Profits – “Quarterly, adjusted for inflation”

Current recovery: 46.6%
Average recovery: 37.4%
Worst recovery (1980): 9.1%
Best recovery (1949): 60.7%

Total Jobs – “Nonfarm jobs, monthly, seasonally adjusted”

Current recovery: .4%
Average recovery: 5.3%
Worst recovery (2001): -.6%
Best recovery (1949): 11.8%

Total Manufacturing Jobs – “Monthly, seasonally adjusted”

Current recovery: -.3%
Average recovery: 3.8%
Worst recovery (2001): -9.5%
Best recovery (1949): 16.2%

Disposable Personal Income – “Montly, adjusted for inflation and the seasons”

Current recovery: 1.8%
Average recovery: 8.8%
(Second) Worst recovery (1991): 4.0%
Best recovery (1970): 13.7%

Personal Spending – “Monthly, adjusted for inflation and the seasons”

Current recovery: 3.9%
Average recovery: 8.5%
Worst recovery (1980): 3.0%
Best recovery (1970): 13.7%

Exports, Good & Services – “Quarterly, adjusted for inflation”

Current recovery: 20.6%
Average recovery: 13.7%
Worst recovery (1980): -7.9%
Best recovery (1949): 32.4%

Bank Lending – “Monthly”

Current recovery: -4.1%
Average recovery: 19.7%
(Second) Worst recovery (1991): -.3%
Best recovery (1949): 36.3%

I was going through my email and found a link to this interesting interview with Peter Schiff, author of one of my favorite books from last year, How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes*. I thought this question and answer was interesting:

Question: So, with a more thoughtful and sober monetary policy from the central banks like the Fed and others, you’re suggesting that maybe oil demand wouldn’t be as high?

Schiff: Well, if you went to an auction and everybody had $100, nothing would sell for more than $100 because nobody would have more than $100. If you gave everybody $1,000 and you auctioned off the same merchandise, it would sell for more money because the people that are bidding have more money to bid.

And that’s what’s happening. All the central banks are printing money, and now that money is there, that money is chasing oil. They’re not pumping as much oil as the central banks are printing money. The supply of money is growing much faster than the supply of oil, so therefore the price of oil has to rise. That’s what’s going on.

The ironic thing about it is the Federal Reserve is likely to respond to higher oil prices by printing even more money, claiming that the higher oil prices will slow the economy. And they think that what they need to do is stimulate to offset that. And of course, by doing that, that just means oil prices will rise even faster, because then there will be even more money. The process will continue, on and on.

There’s no mention in the interview of speculation. Interesting.

*Affiliate Link

From page 10 of Jeffrey Hirsch’s Super Boom: Why the Dow Jones Will Hit 38,820 and How You Can Profit From It* comes this quote regarding inflation:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has tweaked and manipulated the Consumer Price Index (CPI) so many times over the past 30 years or so in an attempt to mask inflation that the indicator may very well not detect a true upsurge in inflation in the years ahead. No one is really sure how this new and improved version of the CPI will react in a hyperinflationary environment. We may see a 40 percent to 50 percent increase in the CPI—or we may see another 200 percent rise.

From page 119 comes this:

Since September 11, 2001, through the most recent November reading of the CPI, the inflation index is up a meager 23 percent. Having made numerous trips to the market and gas station over the past decade, it is simply unimaginable that prices are only up 23 percent. Energy costs have doubled, if not tripled. Medical costs have shyrocketed.

No kidding!

He goes on…

The price of an ounce of gold (in U.S. dollars) and the New York Futures Exhcange Commodity Research Bureau (NYFE CRB) Index are better indicators of the prices consumers actually pay for daily necessities.

Since 2001 gold is up 402 percent and the CRB is up 230 percent. Much of these moves could be in response to a weakening dollar. From its July 2001 peak to the November 2009 low, the U.S. Dollar Index (USDX) had shed nearly 40 percent of its purchasing power—another strong argument that inflation is much higher than the CPI calculated 23 percent.

His hedge for inflation is stocks. Not gold or silver. Stocks.

*Affiliate Link