It was precisely 6 months ago, on January 3, when JPM, blissfully unaware of the powerful snowstorms that were raging outside its office, a condition which would later be branded with the technical economic term "harsh weather", predicted that the US economy would grow by 2.5% in the first half and 3.0% in the second, leading to a solid 2.8% annualized growth for 2014, a growth rate which would mean the US economy would grow at the fastest pace since 2005.
Fast forward exactly six months later, when on July 3, "harsh weather" firmly in the rear view mirror (but blissfully unaware of the record drought slamming California, the monsoons about to crush India, and El Nino set to ravage the US in the fall, not to mention two regional civil wars, a China whose housing bubble has popped and whose rehypothecation scandal means Chinese GDP is about to fall off a cliff, and global trade generally grinding to a halt), JPM has just followed with a revised GDP forecast. Its latest (and certainly not least) prophecy for the full year GDP: precisely one half of what it expected 6 months ago, or just 1.4%, following a cut to Q2 GDP to 2.5% from 3.0% (which means negative growth for the entire first half, something in a less insane world would be called a recession), while keeping Q3 and Q4 GDP miraculously at 3.0% for both quarters.
GDP growth and job growth go their separate ways: The contrast between weak GDP growth and strong job growth in 1H14 only intensified this week. Real GDP growth in 1Q14 was -2.9% saar, and we are reducing our forecast for 2Q14 to 2.5% (from 3.0%). Real GDP appears to have contracted in the first half. At the same time, payroll employment averaged 231,000 in 1H14, the strongest six-month run of job growth in the expansion to date. The obvious result is a sharp decline in productivity in 1H14 and a surge in 1H14 unit labor cost estimated at about 5% saar.
In other words, instead of above-trend, "escape velocity" GDP, the highest in nearly a decade, in 2014 US GDP is now poised to grow just 1.4% - the lowest annual growth rate since the Lehman crash.
What a difference a snow storm makes!