Reclaiming Common Sense

While the rest of the media was focusing on the latest "outrage"  this column continued to focus on the economy. Some in the press were focusing on the jobs report on Saturday of last week. Some people dug into the participation rate. Some people dug into the sector data.  I bet if the media critics examined how much time the major networks spent covering the economic data on each subject covered in this column that they would find I spent more time researching and writing the articles than they spent reporting on the reports.

(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. 

  • Eight Sectors had lower sales than they saw during January 2017
  • Five sectors are off to a slower start than during 2016 (Jan, Feb.)
  • Three Sectors saw their rolling year data drop;
  • Two sectors had lower sales than they had during February 2007.

(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?

There was so much data reported this week that there wasn't enough time to publish columns for everything. Two items that will be addressed next week are the Federal Treasury Report and the JOLTS (Job Opening Labor Turnover Survey.) The JOLTS survey is one month out of date. It covers the data from January, not February.

It's the economy.