Bureau of Labor Statistics
Since about 2001, several sectors of the economy have become increasingly inefficient, in the sense that it takes more resources to produce a given output, such as 1000 barrels of oil. This growing inefficiency explains both slowing world economic growth and the sharp recent drop in prices of many commodities, including oil. The mechanism at work is what I would call the crowding out effect. As more resources are required for the increasingly inefficient sectors of the economy, fewer resources are available to the rest of the economy. As a result, wages stagnate or decline. Central banks find it necessary lower interest rates, to keep the economy going. What we seem to be seeing recently is a drop in price to what consumers can afford for some of these increasingly unaffordable sectors. Unless this situation can be turned around quickly, the whole system risks collapse.
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
The 40%-plus drop in oil prices over the past 6 months has garnered a lot of attention recently, most of it focused on the economic stimulus lower oil prices should provide the global economy, the impact on currency and fixed-income markets, and the increase in economic pain suffered by exporters such as Iran and Russia. However, based on historical data, the potential increase in geopolitical tail risk that lower oil prices may represent is an overlooked consequence that, while low probability, would have an outsize impact on the global economy.
The drop in oil prices is certain to cause some incremental unemployment in the U.S. energy industry; the question is simply how much and what that means for the American economy as a whole.
The increasing use of technology to replace human capital is a trend that will not reverse anytime soon and will continue to proliferate areas where unskilled, repetitive labor can be automated. This is the risk that fast food workers take by lobbying for higher wages; an ordering kiosk can be quickly employed to take orders and deliver those to an automated production line. Or better yet, why not allow customers to simply place orders on the way to the restaurant through an "app." The next time you go out take a moment to realize the impact of technology on everything you do. Also, notice how many individuals have the faces stuck into their phones being truly unproductive.
The executive actions on immigration announced last week look likely to have only a modest economic effect, because, as Goldman Sachs explains, most of the individuals eligible for the programs are already in the US and, in most cases, are likely already working. That said, Goldman estimates that the changes should increase the labor force by about 300k over the next couple of years and that possible wage gains among those gaining work authorization would increase average wages by less than 0.1%.
"The situation has become so bad... that a middle-aged investor, fearing that a local developer wouldn’t be able to make his promised interest payments, threatened to commit suicide in dramatic fashion last summer. After hearing similar stories of desperation, city officials reminded residents that it is illegal to jump off the tops of buildings."
While the impact of the student loan bubble on the labor participation rate has been extensively covered in the past, there is a just as important question of just what these "students" spend their money on. Among the items revealed: "A U.S. Middle District Court indictment alleges that Price spent much of the loan money on crack cocaine, cars, motorcycles, jewelry, tattoos and video games." And iPhones of course, because someone has to indirectly provide US subsidies to the NSA's favorite company. Now we know one more thing that America's young adults, of whom some 24% expect that their debt will ultimately be forgiven, are blowing Uncle Sam's debt on. The answer: high-school level classes.
"You might think legions of retiring Baby Boomers are to blame, or perhaps the swelling ranks of laid-off workers who’ve grown discouraged about their re-employment prospects. While both of those groups doubtless are important (though just how important is debated by labor economists), our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests another key factor: Teens and young adults aren’t as interested in entering the work force as they used to be, a trend that predates the Great Recession." - Pew
Today we see actions by many groups calling or demanding wage increases; especially when it comes to the minimum wage. Yet, isn’t the real underlying issue more in line with what was once an “entry-level” position filled by teenagers has now turned into the only positions available for the now “entry-level, unskilled, first time employed, degree bearing” 26 year old’s and older?
When it comes to inflation data, there are two parallel sources: the BLS, and ShadowStats' John Williams, who continues to plough through the underlying "data" using pre-pre-pre-revision protocols, and every month reveals a parallel universe in which something shocking is revealed: the truth. Here is his take on the October "weaker but really stronger than expected" jobs numbers. Here is what really happened.
"Chinese numbers came out; I was kind of amused that when they’re pretty much on expectations, nobody writes that the books are cooked and that you have to discount the exports, etc.; they came in right on expectations, and everyone high fives the science of economic forecasting. We’ve either got to seasonally adjust for book cooking or assume, like all numbers, they are an educated guess."
Friday gave us a rare glimpse inside one of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Centers (courtesy of CNBC)... Perhaps, as the following screengrab indicates, this is why the American unemployed's "re-training" is not preparing them for life in the new economy?
Moments ago, McDonalds not only released earnings and revenues, both of which missed - something which was largely expected since the backward looking data had been telegraphed by MCD's recent global selling collapse - blanketed by atrocious commentary, but it disclosed its September global retail sales which were for lack of a better word, a disaster, after reporting global sales which dropped 3.8%, below the 3.2% expected, and the worst global month since at least 2003. The pain was everywhere, with Europe plunging 4.2% (est -0.9%), Asia down 7.5%, and the US down a whopping 4.1%, far below the 2.8% expected, and also the worst month in over a decade.
"The Economic Outlook Keeps Getting Better And Better" Says Fed President Who Last Week Unveiled QE4Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/20/2014 13:02 -0500
"I’ll be honest: These speeches get more and more enjoyable as time goes by because the economic outlook keeps getting better and better. Instead of gloom and doom with a scattering of hopeful notes, things are now pretty upbeat, with only a couple of standard economist’s caveats thrown in.... So the message is that things are getting better. We’re on track to end our asset purchases and we’re preparing for the time the economy can sustain an end to accommodation. We’ll want to see improvements in unemployment, wages, and inflation, and we’ll be driven by the data. But all in all, it’s good news—with just a few of those requisite caveats thrown in."