The State Of The Economy

The Conservative Treehouse posted an article today about the revision of the third quarter economic growth numbers.

The article reports:

More signs the U.S. economy is very strong show up today as several key economic indicators defy prior economist predictions.   Staring with a significant upward revision by the Bureau of Economic Analysis for the third quarter GDP growth from 1.9% to 2.1%:

The revision to GDP reflected upward revisions to inventory investment, business investment, and consumer spending.

The increase in consumer spending reflected increases in both goods (notably recreational goods and vehicles as well as food and beverages) and in services (led by housing and utilities as well as food services). (link)

Additionally, the commerce department released data showing U.S. core capital goods orders increased 1.2% in November, the largest gain since January; and more data on home sales shows a whopping 31.6% increase year-over-year. 

U.S. consumers and home buyers are benefiting from low inflation and significant blue collar wage gains that are an outcome of a growing economy and a very strong jobs market.  The most significant wage growth is in non-supervisory positions.   The economic strength is broad-based and the U.S. middle-class is confident.

We live in a commerce based society. When Americans feel confident about their financial futures and buy things, the economy grows. When Americans stop buying things, the economy shrinks. The economy is cyclical and interdependent. When people are insecure about their financial futures, they take fewer vacations, they go out to dinner less frequently, they go to the movies less frequently, etc. Then the jobs in those economic sectors begin to go away–fewer employees are needed. We saw that in the recession of 1990, which was essentially caused by a tax on luxury goods that Congress told us would affect only the people buying those luxury goods. Well, when people stopped buying luxury goods because they didn’t want to pay the taxes on them, the people making those goods lost their jobs. When those people lost their jobs, they traveled less, ate out less, shopped less, etc. Then the people in those industries were laid off because they were not needed. The pattern here is obvious.

When people feel secure about their future, the economy grows. Recent rumors of recession were not taken seriously because Americans were getting raises and could see that more of their neighbors were working. The economy right now is on a good path. It will take some serious effort to mess it up.

Why I Believe The Media’s Talk Of Recession Is Garbage

Breitbart posted an article today about September’s jobs numbers. There is a lot of good news in the report.

The article reports:

Economists had expected the economy to between 150,000 and 180,000 with the median consensus at 163,000, according to Econoday. Unemployment was expected to remain unchanged. Last month’s jobs figure was originally reported at 164,000, now revised down to 159,000, and unemployment was 3.7 percent.

Although the headline number was weaker than expected, wage growth was strong in August. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11 cents to $28.11, or 0.4 percent, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 11 cents to $23.59.

Unemployment among African Americans fell to 5.5 percent, the lowest level on record.

The labor force participation rate edged up to 63.2 percent in August, indicating that the strong labor market has continued to draw Americans into the workforce.

The largest job gains came from professional and business services, which added 37,000.  Census hiring boosted the federal government’s hiring to 28,000 workers. Health care added 24,000 to the total while financial services increased by 15,000.

The article concludes:

Consumer spending and the labor market have been strong. Data released Thursday showed worker compensation rising strongly and well-above inflation. Rising labor costs can promote capital investment by businesses seeking to make workers more productive.
With unemployment near 50-year lows, job growth has slowed and many businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Employment growth has averaged 158,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018.

This is the chart showing the Workforce Participation Rate since 2009 (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website):

We are not yet up to 2009 levels, but we are moving in the right direction. The economic indicators are positive. Hopefully the American public will be able to see past the media’s efforts to create a recession.

Economic Policies Matter

As the Democrat presidential candidates continue their debates, all of us need to step back and consider the consequences of economic (and other) policies. For instance, Medicare for all sounds like a really good idea–until you consider that the one place the government has been running healthcare for a while is the Veteran’s Administration. That hasn’t worked too well. Guaranteed income for all also sounds like a great idea–until you begin to calculate how much it will cost. Income inequality is a problem–it is most prevalent in our largest cities that have been under Democrat control for decades. So what has been the result of President Trump’s economic policies?

The Conservative Treehouse posted an article about the current state of the economy.

The article reports:

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released significant wage and salary data yesterday which held stunning upward revisions for 2018 and 2019.   Wage growth of 5.5% combined with low inflation remaining at 1.4 percent; the disposable income of U.S. workers jumped to a stunning 4.1%.

Within the revised BEA data, we find employee compensation rose 4.5% in 2017 and 5% in 2018.  Importantly the growth trend continued into 2019, with compensation increasing 3.4 percent in the first six months alone.  Year-over-year wages and salaries were revised upward to 5.3% for May, and 5.5% in June.  These are stunning increases in worker pay.

There are various economic indicators we have shared through the years, but wage growth is one of the more critical.  First, wage growth lags behind business activity – workers don’t get pay raises until after business volume demands/provides it.  Second, wage growth is generally uni-directional – once businesses hike pay, the increases cement.

The wage growth is across the board–it has not impacted only the wealthy.

The article concludes with a summary of President Trump’s overall economic strategy:

The U.S. consumer is driving the economy.  The jobs and labor market remains strong.  Wage growth is rising in proportion to the diminished availability of the labor pool. Price inflation is low because manufacturing economies (EU and China) are devaluing their currency, and subsidizing their industries (China), in an effort to avoid Trump’s trade policies (tariffs).  Their efforts increase the value of the dollar and we are importing deflation.

Simultaneously, global manufacturers -multinationals- need access to the U.S. consumer market.   As President Trump applies a series of strategic global trade moves, intended to draw manufacturing back to the U.S., those multinationals are in somewhat of a holding pattern for further investment.  Simply, the multinationals are trying to figure out where to put their investment capital for the highest return.

Example: The U.S. economy is strong, unemployment is low and wage rates up; so if China is a non-option, the profit determination shifts.  Where to manufacture? It might be more profitable for a multinational in either Southeast Asia or North America. The key is which country has a long-term agreement with the U.S.  That’s why the USMCA is critical.

CTH still predicts POTUS Trump will eliminate the uncertainty as soon as the USMCA is ratified.  I suspect President Trump will drop massive tariffs on all Chinese goods.

Think of China like a big lake filled with U.S. economic value. Through his Asian discussions with Vietnam, S Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, et al, President Trump has stealthily built a thin levy, an ASEAN dam of sorts, that will direct the China lake of economic value into Southeast Asia.

Once the USMCA is signed, Trump will blow the dam by triggering the tariffs.  This will move all of the multinationals who are in a ‘holding pattern’, and capital investment will flow fast.   The China exodus will benefit North America (USMCA) and those ASEAN nations who have partnered with Trump and made proactive trade agreements.

This is the reason it is good to periodically get politicians out of the White House and elect a successful businessman.

What Does This Mean For America’s Future?

The Washington Examiner reported today that the rate of homeownership in America has declined steadily since 2006.

The article includes the following graph:

HomeownershipThe article explains:

The only age group that saw a rising homeownership rate over the past year was 35-44-year-olds, with younger and older people turning more to renting.

So let’s take a look at this from a broader perspective. Part of the decline is due to the housing bubble. However, we need to look at the impact of homeownership on our society and how the decline in homeownership will impact us in the future.

Homeowners are invested in their houses and in their neighborhoods. Generally speaking they take pride in both and will endeavor to keep both their homes and neighborhoods clean and crime-free. Under most circumstances, a home will increase in value, providing a basic investment for people who may not be able to invest in other assets. The increase in renters means an increase in landlords, people who own the rental property. It seems to me that the increase in landlords and renters is an indication that the middle class is being squeezed out economically. I understand that in many parts of the country housing is extremely expensive, but there are also areas of the country where jobs are available and housing is reasonably priced. I fear that the decrease in homeownership represents a moving away from the idea of owning something, taking care of something, and having an asset in the future. It may be a reflection of our instant gratification society rather than an economic indicator. It also may be a reflection of the American culture versus the culture of the large number of immigrants currently coming to America from different countries. Private property rights are one of the backbones of our freedoms–other countries may not have those rights. In order to keep our middle class strong economically and help keep our neighborhoods crime-free, we need to encourage all Americans, whether they were born here or just arrived from another country, to own homes and take care of them.