The Crazies versus the Sleepwalkers - Big Budget Showdown

By Michael Collins


The Republican crazies are in a celebrity death match with sleepwalking Democrats. It is a fabricated drama amounting to not much of anything in terms of the nation's well being. The stakes are supposedly the shutdown of the United States government at midnight this Friday. But the most pressing issue isn't discussed on Capitol Hill.

Why can't anyone in a position of power mention the unmentionable? There have been no net new jobs in the United States since 2000. There were 137 million employed citizens that year. There are 139 million employed citizens today. This comes into clear focus when you consider the size of the workforce for 2000 and 2010; 143 million versus 154 million respectively. There are actually fewer jobs in proportion to the workforce.

Isn't this a worthy topic? Shouldn't the story be carried nightly on a major network with a title like: Jobless America, Day 4000

Delusions of Normalcy 2011 - Dismal Scientists Cheer Up

Could a recession occur in 2011? Under the current state of the US economy and its heavy reliance on federal spending, we could answer this question quite simply if we knew when the US government credit card will reach its limit. At some point it must; the compelling reality of mathematical compounding alone makes it impossible for any country to continue to rack up new principal and interest obligations.

The consensus is in and there is strong agreement: the US economy is on the path to a sustained recovery. 2011 will be a year of surprises on the upside, and 2012 will be even better. Among a list of the top 25 economists surveyed, not one of them predicts a recession in 2011. There is hardly any investment strategist or economist to be found who sees any risks serious enough to derail the US economy. Here is just a sample of the consensus thinking that is to be found in end-of-the year forecasts:

*Economists in universities and on Wall Street have raised their growth projections for next year. Retail sales, industrial production and factory orders are on the upswing, and new claims for unemployment benefits are trending downward. Despite persistently high unemployment, consumer confidence is improving. Large corporations are reporting healthy profits, and the Dow Jones industrial average reached a two-year high this week. – New York Times

Economic things I learned or overheard this Memorial Day

I’m a sucker for barbeques, especially good ones.  Normally I’m not a “family” person, but I am a people person.  When it comes to barbeques, though I tend to even go to the ones my family puts out.  This year I hosted, unfortunately the weather was not on my side and being someone into risk management I decided to hold an “indoor bbq.”  The food, as always, was good, but my other type of appetite was also satisfied, my hunger for news and tid bits. 

Unemployment and Recovery

The BLS reported this morning that in April the U3 unemployment rate increased to 8.9%. This is a .4% increase from March, and is what I expected.

This is one of those cases where "less awful" actually ought to give rise to some hope. Before Black September, when we had a shallow recession confined to Wall Street and housing-related trades, the worst month for payroll loss was -175,000. By November the loss was -597,000, and from December through March losses were clustered near -700,000 a month!.

April's payroll loss of -539,000 is ~140,000 less than the last 4 months. If this new trend continues for another 3 months, payroll losses will vanish and the economy might actually begin to add jobs by August.