Leading Indicators: Key Economies and the BRICs

A month ago, I examined the information content of the OECD’s Composite Leading Indicators. The August release (for June data) is out. There’s substantial variation in the implied outlook across economies. Figure 1: Normalized Composite Leading Indicators for US (blue), euro area (salmon) and Japan (green). Above 100 indicates expansion, below contraction. Dashed line at […]

Current Economic Conditions

This was another week when everybody but me sees an economic recovery in the works. Certainly Thursday’s report of a 0.1% decline in U.S. retail trade and food services sales for July was a disappointment. Dan Greenhaus explains why he found the number startling: The cash for clunkers program was expected to have had quite […]

Can Firms Simply Add Hours to Recover Output? No.

  The RGE Monitor recently uploaded one of my articles on productivity. I believe that the corresponding comment deserves a public response; it refers to the tradeoff faced by employers between laying off workers or reducing hours worked (chart to left, where July hours worked remains at a historical low of 33.1 hours per job). […]

China Rising, Rent-Seeking Version

The usual concern about the US-China balance of economic and political power is couched in terms of our relative international payments positions.  We’ve run a large current account deficit in recent years (imports above exports); they still have – by some measures – the largest current account surplus (exports above imports) even seen in a major […]

A Staggering Term of Productivity Growth

Usually productivity growth tumbles during a recession. Firms incorporate economic conditions at a lag, cut marginal costs (i.e., jobs), and the unemployment rises. Not this time. The chart illustrates annual productivity growth per quarter since 1950. As you can see, productivity growth dropped below zero in six of the last ten recession (including this one). […]

The Recovery Edges Forward

Data flow continues to support those who argue that if the recession is not already over as of July, it soon will be.  The July jobs report – while not exactly cheery news for those still losing their jobs – is another clear indicator that the employment picture is turning.  Still, excitement over the end […]

Taking a Closer Look at NFP

I did not have time to take Friday’s BLS release apart until now — between the fishing and the drinking I am slacking off during my Maine trip — but it only took a cursory glance to see July NFP was not all it was cracked up to be. This was the best employment number […]

Good News, Finally, In the “Hours Worked” Statistic

In the July employment report released by the BLS this morning, August 7, the labor market shows its first encouraging signs. Most commentators will focus on the jobs numbers, which show a decline of less than half the rate that the economy experienced in the “freefall period” of late 2008 and early 2009.  Employment tends to […]