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May 3, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update: Little Change

Today: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Situation Summary: "Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in April, and the unemployment rate declined to 3.6 percent.... Notable job gains... in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance..." Note that all of the decline in the unemployment rate is a shift of workers from "unemployed" to "out of the labor force", which now stands 800,000 lower than it did in December. The unemployment rate is broken as an indicator of the business-cycle state of the labor market.

Today: Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Staff Nowcast: "May 03, 2019: The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 2.1% for 2019:Q..." In the past week, good news about employment and personal consumption largely offset by bad news about manufacturing.

 

Key Points:

The right response to almost all economic data releases is: Nothing has changed—your view of the economic forecast today is different from what it was last week, last month, or three months ago in only minor ways. Specifically, it is still the case that:

  • U.S. potential economic growth continues to be around 2%/year.
  • There are still no signs the U.S. has entered that phase of the recovery in which inflation is accelerating.
  • Thus there are till no signs that the U.S. has gone beyond or is even at "full employment".
  • There are still no signs of interest rate normalization: secular stagnation continues to reign.
  • Printing money (and bonds) to increase the global supply of safe assets and using the proceeds to buy useful stuff continues to look like good business cycle-management policy.
  • The unemployment rate is broken as an indicator of the business-cycle store of the labor market.
  • The Trump-McConnell-Ryan tax cut:
    • To the extent that it was supposed to boost the American economy by boosting the supply side through increased investment in America, has been a complete failure.
    • To the extent that it was supposed to make America more unequal, has succeeded.
    • Delivered a substantial short-erm demand-side fiscal stimulus to growth that has now ebbed.
      • (A 3.2%/year rate of growth of final sales to domestic purchasers over the seven quarters starting in January 2017, pushing the level of Gross National Income up by 2.1% from this demand-side stimulus.)

  • A change from 3 months ago: The Federal Reserve's abandonment of its focus on policies that are likely to keep PCE chain inflation at 2%/year or lower does not mean that it is preparing to do anything to avoid or moderate the next recession.
  • A change from 1 month ago: The U.S. grew at 3.2%/year in the first quarter of 2019—1.6%-points higher than had been nowcast—but the growth number you want to put in your head in assessing the strength of the economy is the 1.6%/year number that had been nowcast.
  • A change from 1 week ago: The disjunction between household- and establishment-survey views of the labor market continues to grow: since December seasonally-adjusted establishment payrolls have grown by an average of 210000 a month, while the CPS reports that the seasonally-adjusted number of workers with jobs has fallen by 80000 a month.

Table A 1 Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age

All Employees Total Nonfarm Payrolls FRED St Louis Fed


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