Jack Dunn - Reclaiming Common Sense

 March was a busy month for the www.itstheeconomy.info website. There were the usual assortment of "Jobs Report" related columns as well as a number of jobs on housing. Throw in an article on the Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/ACA/RyanCare situation and this was the busiest month for this website.


(March 1)  The story that gets a ton of attention in the press, and yet gets into very little detail, is the looming Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid funding crises. This column, and its predecessor, have dug into the trustee reports for the Medicare/Medicaid Trust Fund and the Social Security Trust Fund.  and found that there were multiple requests to raise revenue shortfall to keep the programs viable. The problem is that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security are "off -budget" programs and their surpluses have been used to reduce "on-budget" deficits. The article "Uncle Sam: Trust Fund Baby Gone Bust" details the most recent suggestions for payroll tax increase and how the last time the programs were "saved" by President Reagan actually just made a larger slush fund to reduce  the on-budget deficits.


(March 2) The beginning of the month, for this column, means reviewing the top ten article read during the prior month. The article "Top Ten Articles February 2017" rehashed the articles that caught your attention, including three week in review columns, a month in review column, and columns regarding the federal debt, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation report, the jobs report, and housing data.

(March 2) A staple of this column, and a former staple of business news, is the regular Thursday release of the weekly unemployment claims report, including first-time unemployment claims and continuing claims. We have a low level of participation, unemployed people are participants, and elevated levels of people working multiple jobs. People who work multiple jobs and lose one do not qualify for unemployment benefits. People who work seasonal jobs or part-time jobs do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Thursday's column asked "Are Unemployment Claims Too Low?"

(March 3)  The most anticipated number of the month, and the most misunderstood number, is the jobs number. The jobs number is a seasonally adjusted worker number where the seasonal factors change from month to month, season to season, and year to year. There are two data sets, the Current Population Survey (CPS) data and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) data. February is a great month for Full-time and Part-time Job Creation. Unemployment normally falls and participation normally improves. The authors of the report have been using 'creative' seasonal factors to bolster the jobs numbers during the final months of the Obama Administration. "How Will  Jobs Numbers Be Skewed Next Friday" projects the growth rates anticipated and makes an educated guess for the seasonal factors used to convert the non-seasonally adjusted data to the seasonally adjusted data. This is the first jobs report with data collected after the inauguration.


(March 4) This week was another slow week for data.The week in review covered what was there.  The weekly jobs report that is normally released on the first Friday  of the month will be released the first Friday of the month  was released a week late. the second Friday of the month. This meant that this column was able to research other issues without the pressures of preparation for the jobs article. It is important to note that the President gave his first address to the Joint Session of Congress and that the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 21,000 level for the first time.


(March 8) This column, and its parallel column "Reclaiming Common Sense" have questioned the reporting of the ADP number. It is seasonally adjusted. The Bureau of Labor does not publish its seasonal factors. The article "ADP Number was 298,000. Does it Matter?" digs into these details and others.

(March 9) It is interesting that the "Does it Matter" column was written the day preceding the weekly unemployment claims report. What used to be headline news is now the Rodney "I don't get no respect" Dangerfield report of economic reports. "Unemployment Claims Up; Still Good" digs into the unadjusted data and the seasonally adjusted (SA) data. We are still at seventeen year lows, non-seasonally adjusted, for this time of year, for both the first-time unemployment (FTU) claims and the continuing claims. The SA FTU level is not as good as it is being reported.

(March 10 ) Friday we saw the release of one of the best February Jobs Reports for the month of February since 1999.Other outlets report the seasonally adjusted data. This column addresses both the seasonally adjusted and the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA)data. The article "Remarkable February Jobs Report" details how the number of combined full-time and part-time jobs was the best February since, and including, February 2003. This is the strongest month of growth, month to month percent change, for private sector workers since February 1999. If any of the seasonal factors that were used to convert the NSA February Private Sector worker number to the SA number between 2000 and 2015,  the private sector number that, is reported in the press the official number would have been over 300,000 workers and as high as 453,000 workers.  Unemployment fell. Participation has started to recover.


(March 11)The Week in review this week focused on Jobs and Unemployment. ADP. The Employment Situation REport. The skewing of the data and the narrative.


(March 13) We saw the release of the February Jobs report on March 10th. The February Jobs Report was remarkable. We saw the addition of over 1 million non-seasonally adjusted jobs. We saw the unemployment rate drop and the participation rate improve over January. The column  "Five President, Month One, Participation Matters" picked up where "Four Presidents at 96 Months Participation Matters" stopped. Some in the media have rediscovered the U-6 unemployment rate after eight years of ignoring it. It turns out that President Trump is starting with a similar U-6 rate as did President Reagan.

(March 13) Another regular feature of this column is the "War on (Wo)Men" series. This series compares the job creating, unemployment rate, and participation of men compared to women. There was supposedly a War on Women during the 2012 election. It is ironic that Women have recovered better than men after the "Great Recession."   The column "Men Still Struggling to Find Full-time Jobs" found that the effective unemployment rate for men, when factoring in participation, is closer to 10% than it is to 5%.

(March 14)  There is a large amount of misinformation being propagated in the media. One False Assertion Considered to be True (FACT) that is being pushed is that we are seeing a drop in the participation rate because people are retiring. The column "February's Aging Workforce" details how workforce participation is dropping for those under the age of 55 and improving for those 55 and older. It also broke down the job and unemployment data by age group.

(March 15) There is more data that the Jobs Report released each month. This week we received information on inflation and retail sales. Inflation, the Consumer Price Index Report, is a key factor in the actions that the Federal Reserve takes. They are focusing on the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. Where the Federal Reserve like to exclude the "volatile" food and energy sectors, we cannot do so. Where the government likes to seasonally adjust every bit of data, we cannot say I want to adjust what we pay for shelter of medical insurance. "Inflation Starting to Go Off the Charts" compares this month's various inflation rates with that from February 2015.  What cost us $3998 during February 2016 cost us $4112 this past month.

(March 15) There was some analysis of the sector data after the release of the February ADP report. The ADP data is seasonally adjusted. Almost all of the data that is referenced in this column is the non-seasonally adjusted data.  That attention was ramped up after the release of the release of the employment situation report, jobs report. The column "Twelve Sectors Added Jobs during February" showed while all but one sector added jobs during February, that one was unchanged from January, you have to remember that January is historically "Lay-off" month. You also have to remember that five sectors have fewer jobs than July 2007, the peak of the employment market, and that two sectors have fewer jobs than February 2009, President Obama's first full month in office.   

(March 16)'The United States is a consumption based economy. Retail Sales Matter should be the motto for this economy. The best translation would be "Consume or Die" or Die vel in consummatione. The February Retail Report was weaker than expected, so that means that most people reported that instead of where the weakness was recorded. "Retail Sales Wake-Up This Friday" reported that the December Retail sales were revised down by half a billion dollars and that January was revised up by over 2 billion dollars. 

(March 17)  One of the data points that used to be followed religiously was the weekly unemployment claims number. Yes, there are people who are still losing jobs that provide unemployment claims benefits. The first-time unemployment (FTU) and Continuing Claims (CC) numbers are at 17 year lows.  "Should we Celebrate Low First-Time Claims" points out that the seasonally adjusted data could have been reported lower than it was reported. It also points out that one of the reasons why the claims levels are so low is that we have an elevated level of people working part-time jobs. Another reason is that we have an elevated level of people  working multiple jobs.

(March 17) There is another line in the jobs report that gets some attention from time to time. The elephant in the room is that we have an elevated level of people working two jobs while we have a near record low level of February Participation. "People Working Two Part-Times Jobs Jumps" revealed that we have a February record level number of people working two part-time jobs. It also revealed that we have a over 7.9 million people working two jobs.Is it because they want to work two jobs or because they have to work two jobs?


(March 18)The Week in review for the week ending March 18 was one of the top ten columns of March.


(March 20) The JOLTS data is out of date as soon as it is released. The sector data is available for jobs created with the release of the Jobs Report. The JOLTS data is good for measuring quits and separations. The JOLTS data is bad for detailing whether or not the quits or separations are full-time or part-time jobs or seasonal vs permanent jobs.  "January JOLTS, Four Sectors  to Watch" digs into some of the details for the Leisure and Hospitality, Health and Education, the Trade, Transportation and Utilities, and Professional Business Service sectors.

(March 20) Last week the February New Construction data was released, as was "every other report known to man." This week the data was digested in "February New Construction, Slightly Chilly." We need starts and completions in order to generate sales. Neither are great right now. Both are better than they have been over the past eight years. Both are worse than they were 20 to 35 years ago.

(March 22) The existing Home Sales market is vital to our economy. There are more existing homes sold every month tan new homes. People who sell existing homes often buy new homes. People who buy and sell homes require other services and buy other items, such as electronics and appliances, furniture and furnishings, home and garden supplies, and even new cars for their new garages. Sales equals jobs. Jobs equals sales.  "February Existing Home Sales: Inventory Shortage" details how the average existing home sales price hit a new record for February and how units sold are still lagging behind pre-recession levels.

(March 23) They still produce the weekly unemployment claims report. This week they revised all the seasonally adjusted data from 2012 forward. That under 300,000 first-time unemployment claims streak has an asterisk. Live by the seasonally adjusted data, die by the seasonally adjusted data. "What First-time Unemployment Claims Streak"   explains the data and reveals that while we do have under 300,000 SA FTU claims right now, it may be because we have elevated levels of people working part-time jobs or multiple jobs.

(March 23) The new home sales report was released this week. The Average sales price soared while the median sales price dropped. The number of units sold were comparable to what we saw during February of 1983 and February of 1995. "February New Home Ave. Sales Price Soars"  examines the revisions to recent data and projects a lower annual rate of sales than the authors of the report do. Once again the data is better than the past eight years and still in recovery mode. The question here is will we be in recovery for ten or twenty more years? Will the new home inventory relieve some of the existing home inventory pressure?


(March 25) Where the prior week focused on jobs, the Week in Review Column released March 25 summarized the Week in Housing data. Another Top Ten Column.


(March 28) March madness is more than a basketball term. "Mad" can mean "seriously good." This month the jobs data should be positively "mad." There are two surveys that are used to create the monthly jobs report. The first survey is the Current Population Survey, or CPS. This survey measure the number of workers in the workforce population, the number of full-time and part-time jobs created (or lost,) and the number of unemployed workers. It is from this data that the unemployment rate and the participation rate are calculated. The second survey is the Current Employment Statistics Survey, or CES data. It is from this data that the "official jobs number" is created. The Column "Mad March Forecast" was written to manage expectations and to place people on notice that hey may attempt to undermine President Trump's successful job creation activities.


(March 29) We need workers to work full-time jobs in order to buy homes. We need people who are buying homes to buy refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, televisions, paint, carpeting, and landscaping items. We need retail stores to hire salespeople, not just cashiers. We need people with existing homes to want to buy new homes and place their existing homes on the market to alleviate an existing home shortage. We need new homes to be built so construction workers will return to the sites. We need jobs to generate revenue so that we can see tax rates drop and disposable income rise.  The level of growth that we have seen during the past eight years has not been enough to stimulate the economy. What rate of expansion is needed? 


(March 30)  The final revisions to the fourth quarter 2016 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) number was released with very little fanfare. The Annualized GDP rate, based on once quarter of growth, was revised up from 1.9% to 2.1%. The Real GDP, same quarter, year to year, growth rate was revised up from 1.9% to 2.0% .Personal Consumption Expenditures, Disposable Personal Income, and the impacts of Imports and Exports on GDP were  remarkable. Here were the remarks.


(March 31) The weekly report was one of the most anticipated numbers of the week until we dropped to seventeen year lows. The report records the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) first-time Unemployment (FTU) claims number and the NSA Continuing Claims (CC) Number. The seasonally adjusted (SA) version of the FTU number is the "headline" number. Last week the seasonal factors used to convert the NSA data to the SA data were revised from the first week of January 2012 through the rest of this year. There wasn't an historic Under 300,000 SA FTU claims streak before the revisions, there isn't one after the revisions. The final unemployment numbers for the month of March were good,  up was down.


What a month. This was the highest month for readership on this website. The first three months of this year had more pageviews here than the final five months of 2016.