Wall Street Cheers a Dismal Jobs Report

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2013

Week in Review

The markets reacted positively to the new jobs report.  The unemployment rate changed little.  But what really got them excited was that the economy created 165,000 new jobs.  More than last month.  But not really good.  But you wouldn’t know that from reading the report (see Employment Situation Summary posted 5/3/2013 on Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The unemployment rate, at 7.5 percent, changed little in April but has declined by 0.4 percentage point since January. The number of unemployed persons, at 11.7 million, was also little changed over the month; however, unemployment has decreased by 673,000 since January. (See table A-1.)…

The civilian labor force participation rate was 63.3 percent in April, unchanged over the month but down from 63.6 percent in January. The employment-population ratio, 58.6 percent, was about unchanged over the month and has shown little movement, on net, over the past year.(See table A-1.)

When you read this it sounds good.  But it’s not.  The labor force participation rate holding at 63.3% is horrible.  It wasn’t this bad since the Seventies.  That’s a lot of people who have just disappeared from the labor force.  Who just gave up trying to find a job.  Because they just aren’t out there.  And because they’ve disappeared the government doesn’t count them anymore.  Which is the only reason why the unemployment rate has fallen during the Obama presidency.

When President Obama entered office the labor force participation rate was at 65.8%.  Which means it has fallen 3.8% in little over four years.  This is a huge fall.  The steepest decline ever.  And the fact that it is holding at 63.3% means there are a lot of people out of work that have to reenter the workforce.  Also, the current number is the lowest it has been since President Obama entered office.  Which means we haven’t even begun the economic recovery yet.   So these jobs numbers couldn’t be worse.  Yet Wall Street celebrates.  Why?  Probably because they’re suffering from irrational exuberance.

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The Obama Administration was lying about the Success of the Stimulus Bill

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2013

Week in Review

President Obama promised us that if Congress passed his stimulus bill the unemployment rate wouldn’t rise above 8%.  Because million of people would go back to work immediately thanks to all of those shovel-ready jobs.  Well, the president signed it into law on February 17, 2009.  In October of that year the unemployment rate topped out at 10%.  And the president joked that those shovel-ready jobs weren’t as shovel-ready as they thought.  Still, they claimed it was a success.  And bragged about the millions of jobs they created or saved.  All the while the economy remained mired in one of the worst economic recoveries of all time (see Did Obama’s stimulus bill really work? Not even the gov’t knows by Sean Higgins posted 4/15/2013 on The Examiner).

Reason magazine’s Peter Suderman has a lengthy but eye-opening examination of President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — aka the stimulus bill — and why even after spending $833 million through it the economy continues to suck.

The article is a top-to-bottom dissection that exposes the many layers of folly involved. Several passages stand out but this one in particular is worth noting because it points out the central flaw in reports that argue the stimulus was a success: There is literally no way to measure those claims.

“According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office,” says Recovery.gov, the Obama administration’s stimulus website, “the Recovery Act supported as many as 3.5 million jobs across the country.” As the stimulus ran its course over roughly three years, the capital’s top newspapers kept printing similar, supportive-sounding figures from the budget office. “CBO Says Stimulus May Have Added 3.3 Million Jobs,” a Washington Post headline trumpeted in 2010. “CBO: Stimulus Added Up to 3.3 million Jobs,” declared a Politico headline in 2011. Senate Democrats touted the estimates as proof of ARRA’s success. So did the vice president…

The CBO estimated that the stimulus created or saved up to 3.6 million jobs. But CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf has also noted that if the real-world results were different — if the law created 5 million jobs, or if it created none at all — the agency wouldn’t know. At a March 2010 presentation, Elmendorf characterized the CBO’s follow-up reports as “repeating the same exercises we did rather than an independent check.” At the same event, Elmendorf was asked, “If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis?” His response: “That’s right. That’s right.” (Emphasis added.)

You may not be able to measure how many jobs you saved but you sure can measure one thing.  The labor force participation rate.  The percentage of those who could be working who are actually working.  Which shows the true economic picture unlike the official unemployment rate.  Which just doesn’t count people if they leave the labor force.  Because they can’t find a job.  You see, for them to count you in the unemployment rate you have to be looking for work.  And if you gave up looking for work after a year or so of not finding work they don’t count you.  Which lowers the unemployment rate.  Even though more people are unemployed.

So how did the labor force participation rate respond to the stimulus bill?  Not good.  It suffered its steepest decline the year they passed the stimulus.  And continued in the longest and steepest free-fall during the Obama presidency.  These numbers show the stimulus was an abject failure.  And any talk contrary to this was nothing but wishful thinking.  Or outright lies.

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President Obama’s War on Oil and Gas

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2013

Week in Review

The economy is still languishing in a recession.  At least if you look at the labor force participation rate.  Which has fallen greatly during the Obama presidency.  And still shows no signs of recovery.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs continue to disappear from the labor force.  While median income falls.  And gas and food prices rise.  In fact the only boom going on during the Obama presidency has nothing to do with President Obama.  The oil and gas boom is all on private lands.  Where he can’t stop it.  Like he has stopped it on public lands.  But if you listen to him talk you wouldn’t know that (see Obama’s Quiet Declaration of War on Oil and Gas Production by Clark S. Judge posted 3/18/2013 on U.S.News & World Report).

Last week, the president traveled to the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago to deliver what the White House billed as a major speech on energy…

Despite the speech’s “energy” label, the oil and gas boom that is in the process of transforming the United States from a net importer to a net exporter of hydrocarbons rated only one forward-looking sentence. “[W]e’ll keep moving on the all-of-the-above energy strategy that we’ve been working on for the last couple years,” the president said, “where we’re producing more oil and gas here at home but we’re also producing more biofuels, we’re also producing more fuel-efficient vehicles; more solar power; more wind power.”

That was it. No mention of allowing drillers onto public lands from which they have been excluded throughout the Obama presidency. No mention of allowing construction of the Keystone pipeline, a major step, if it happens, toward fully freeing the nation from dependence on such problematic petroleum suppliers as Venezuela and the Middle East…

But here’s a thought: Could it be that the president’s brushing aside of the only viable short-term sources of American energy—the oil and gas boom—had to do with a story that broke the day before? As Bloomberg reported, Mr. Obama “is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.” Bloomberg added, “The result could be significant delays for natural gas-export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.”

In other words, it looks as though the entire energy address may have been a smokescreen, covering the start of a White House-driven war on American oil and gas production.

So not only is the president keeping drillers off of public lands he is now directing his administration to hinder the economic activity on private lands.  By putting up roadblocks to hinder the private sector bringing their products to market.  Which won’t do anything to improve the labor force participation rate.  In fact, it will probably cause even more jobs to disappear from the market.

Guess the president doesn’t care about the oil and gas industries.  As long as he has fuel for Air Force One to travel the world on vacation he’s content with the way things are now.  Horrible.

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Banking, Lending Standards, Dot-Com, Subprime Mortgage and Bill Clinton’s Recessions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 19th, 2013

History 101

Lending more made Banks more Profitable as long as they Maintained Good Lending Standards

Money is a commodity.  And like any commodity the laws of supply and demand affect it.  If a lot of people want to borrow money interest rates rise.  This helps to make sure the people who want to borrow money the most can.  As they are willing to pay the higher interest rates.  While those who don’t want the money bad enough to pay the higher interest rates will let someone else borrow that money.  If few people want to borrow money interest rates fall.  To entice those people back into the credit markets who had decided not to borrow money when interest rates were higher.

Okay, but who is out there who wants people to borrow their money?  And why do they want this?  The key to any advanced civilization and the path to a higher standard of living is a good banking system.  Because if ordinary people can borrow money ordinary people can buy a house.  Or start a business.  Not just the rich.  For a good banking system allows a thriving middle class.  As people earn money they pay their bills.  And put a little away in the bank.  When a lot of people do this all of those little amounts add up to a large sum.  Which converts small change into capital.  Allowing us to build factories, automobiles, airplanes, cell towers, etc.  Giving us the modern world.  As banks are the intermediary between left over disposable cash and investment capital.

Banks are businesses.  They provide a service for a fee.  And they make their money by loaning money to people who want to borrow it.  The more money they lend the more money they make.  They pay people to use their deposits.  By paying interest to people who deposit their money with them.  They then loan this money at a higher interest rate.  The difference between what they pay to depositors and what they collect from borrowers pays their bills.  Covers bad loans.  And gives them a little profit.   Which can be a lot of profit if they do a lot of lending.  However, the more they lend the more loans can go bad.  So they have to be very careful in qualifying those they lend money to.  Making sure they will have the ability to pay their interest payments.  And repay the loan.

With the Federal Reserve keeping Interest Rates low Investors Borrowed Money and Poured it into the Dot-Coms

Just as a good banking system is necessary for an advanced civilization, a higher standard of living and a thriving middle class so is good lending standards necessary for a good banking system.  And when banks follow good lending standards economic growth is more real and less of a bubble.  For when money is too easy to borrow some people may borrow it to make unwise investments.  Or malinvestments as those in the Austrian school of economics call it.  Like buying an expensive car they don’t need.  A house bigger than their needs.  Building more houses than there are people to buy them.  Or investing in an unproven business in the hopes that it will be the next Microsoft.

America became the number one economic power in the world because of a good banking system that maintained good lending standards.  Which provided investment capital for wise and prudent investments.  Then the Keynesians in government changed that.  By giving us the Federal Reserve System.  America’s central bank.  And bad monetary policy.  The Keynesians believe in an active government intervening in the private economy.  That can manipulate interest rates to create artificial economic activity.  By keeping interest rates artificially low.  To make it easier for anyone to borrow money.  No matter their ability to repay it.  Or how poor the investment they plan to make.

The Internet entered our lives in the Nineties.  Shortly after Bill Gates became a billionaire with his Microsoft.  And investors were looking for the next tech geek billionaire.  Hoping to get in on the next Microsoft.  So they poured money into dot-com companies.  Companies that had no profits.  And nothing to sell.  And with the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates artificially low investors borrowed money and poured even more into these dot-coms.  Classic malinvestments.  The stock prices for these companies that had no profits or anything to sell soared.  As investors everywhere were betting that they had found the next Microsoft.  The surging stock market made the Federal Reserve chief, Alan Greenspan, nervous.  Such overvalued stocks were likely to fall.  And fall hard.  It wasn’t so much a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’.  He tried to warn investors to cool their profit lust.  Warning them of their irrational exuberance.  But they didn’t listen.  And once that investment capital ran out the dot-com bubble burst.  Putting all those newly graduated computer programmers out of a job.  And everyone else in all of those dot-com businesses.  Causing a painful recession in 2000.

Based on the Labor Force Participation Rate we are in one of the Worse and Longest Recession in U.S. History

Encouraging malinvestments in dot-coms was not the only mismanagement Bill Clinton did in the Nineties.  For he also destroyed the banking system.  With his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.  Where he fixed nonexistent discriminatory lending practices by forcing banks to abandon good lending standards.  And to qualify the unqualified.  Putting a lot of people into houses they could not afford.  Their weapon of choice for the destruction of good lending practices?  Subprime lending.  And pressure from the Clinton Justice Department.  Warning banks to approve more loans in poor areas or else.  So if they wanted to stay in business they had to start making risky loans.  But the government helped them.  By having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buying those risky, toxic loans from those banks.  Getting them off the banks’ balance sheets so they would make more toxic subprime loans.  And as they did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac passed these mortgages on to Wall Street.  Who chopped and diced them into new investment vehicles.  The collateralized debt obligation (CDO).  High-yield but low-risk investments.  Because they were backed by the safest investment in the world.  A stream of mortgage payments.  Of course what they failed to tell investors was that these were not conventional mortgages with 20% down payments.  But toxic subprime mortgages where the borrowers put little if anything down.  Making it easy for them to walk away from these mortgages.  Which they did.  Giving us the subprime mortgage crisis.  And the Great Recession.

So Bill Clinton and his Keynesian cohorts caused some of the greatest economic damage this nation had ever seen.  For Keynesian policies don’t create real economic activity.  They only create bubbles.  And bubbles eventually burst.  As those highly inflated asset prices (stocks, houses, etc.) have to come back down from the stratosphere.  The higher they rise the farther they fall.   And the more painful the recession.  For this government intrusion into the private economy caused a lot of malinvestments.  A tragic misuse of investment capital.  Directing it into investments it wouldn’t have gone into had it not been for the government’s interference with market forces.  And when the bubble can no longer be kept aloft market forces reenter the picture and begin clearing away the damage of those malinvestments.  Getting rid of the irrational exuberance.  Resetting asset prices to their true market value.  And in the process eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs.  Jobs the market would have created elsewhere had it not been for the Keynesian interference.  We can see the extent of the damage of these two Clinton recessions if we graph the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) along with the labor force participation rate (the percentage of those who are able to work who are actually working).  As can be seen here (see Percent change from preceding period and Employment Situation Archived News Releases):

Labor Force Participation Rate and GDP Growth

The first Clinton recession caused a decline in the labor force participation rate (LFPR) that didn’t level out until after 2004.  Even though there were not two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth during this time.  Usually what it takes to call an economic slump a recession.  But the falling LFPR clearly showed very bad economic times.  That began with the dot-com bubble bursting.  And was made worse after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  Eventually George W. Bush pulled us out of that recession with tax cuts.  The much maligned Bush tax cuts.  Which not only caused a return to positive GDP growth.  But it arrested the decline of the LFPR.  But the good times did not last.  For the second Clinton recession was just around the corner.  The subprime mortgage crisis.  Created with President Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.  That unleashed real economic woe.  Woe so bad we call it the Great Recession.  The little brother of the Great Depression.

This recession not only had two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth but five of six consecutive quarters showed negative growth.  And one of those quarters nearly reached a negative ten percent.  Which is when a recession becomes a depression.  This recession was so long and so painful because those artificially low interest rates and the pressure on bankers to lower their lending standards created a huge housing bubble.  Pushing housing prices so high that when the housing bubble burst those prices had a very long way to fall.  Worse, President Obama kept to the Keynesian policies that caused the recession.  Trying to spend the economy out of recession.  Instead of cutting taxes.  Like George W. Bush did to pull the economy out of the first Clinton recession.  Worse, anti-business policies and regulations stifled any recovery.  And then there was Obamacare.  The great job killer.  Which he helped pass into law instead of trying to end the Great Recession.  GDP growth eventually returned to positive growth.  And the official unemployment fell.  A little.  But the president’s policies did nothing to reverse one of the greatest declines in the LFPR.  More people than ever have disappeared from the labor force.  That will take a lot of time and a lot of new, real economic activity to bring them back into the labor force.  And no matter what the current GDP growth rate or the official unemployment rate are it doesn’t change the reality of the economy.  Based on the LFPR it is in one of the worse and longest recession in U.S. history.  And the worse recovery since the Great Depression.  Because of President Obama’s embrace of Keynesian policies.  Which do more to increase the size of government than help the economy.

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GDP Growth, Recession, Depression and Recovery

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2013

Economics 101

Gross Domestic Product is basically Consumer Spending and Government Spending

In the 1980 presidential campaign Ronald Reagan said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.  A depression is when you lose yours.  And a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”  A powerful statement.  And one that proved to be pretty much true.  But don’t look for these definitions in an economics textbook.  For though they connect well to us the actual definitions are a little more complex.  And a bit abstract.

There is a natural ebb and flow to the economy.  We call it the business cycle.  There are good economic times with unemployment falling.  And there are bad economic times with unemployment rising.  The economy expands.  And the economy contracts.  The contraction side of the business cycle is a recession.  And it runs from the peak of the expansion to the trough of the contraction.  A depression is basically a recession that is really, really bad.

But even these definitions are vague.  Because getting an accurate measurement on economic growth isn’t that easy.  There’s gross domestic product (GDP).  Which is the sum total of final goods and services.  Basically consumer spending and government spending.  Which is why the government’s economists (Keynesians) and those in the Democrat Party always say cutting government spending will hurt the economy.  By reducing GDP.  But GDP is not the best measurement of economic activity.

Even though Retail Sales may be Doing Well everyone up the Production Chain may not be Expanding Production

One problem with GDP is that the government is constantly revising the numbers.  So GDP doesn’t really provide real-time feedback on economic activity.  The organization that defines the start and end points of recessions is the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).  And they often do so AFTER the end of a recession.  One metric they use is GDP growth.  If it’s negative for two consecutive quarters they call it a recession.  But if there is a significant decline in economic activity that lasts a few months or more they may call that a recession, too.  Even if there aren’t two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.  If GDP falls by 10% they’ll call that a depression.

There’s another problem with using GDP data.  It’s incomplete.  It only looks at consumer spending.  It doesn’t count any of the upper stages of
production.  The wholesale stage.  The manufacturing stage.  And the raw commodities stage.  Where the actual bulk of economic activity takes place.  In these upper stages.  Which Keynesian economists ignore.  For they only look at aggregate consumer spending.  Which they try to manipulate with interest rates.  And increasing the money supply.  To encourage more consumer spending.  But there is a problem with Keynesian economics.  It doesn’t work.

When economic activity slows Keynesian economic policies say the government should increase spending to pick up the slack.  So they expand the money supply.  Lower interest rates.  And spend money.  Putting more money into the hands of consumers.  So they can go out and spend that money.  Thus stimulating economic activity.  But expanding the money supply creates inflation.  Which raises prices.  So consumers may be spending that stimulus money but those businesses in the higher stages of production know what’s coming.  Higher prices.  Which means people will soon be buying less.  And they know once these people spend their stimulus money it will be gone.  As will all that stimulated activity.  So even though retail sales may be doing well everyone up the production chain may not be expanding production.  Instead, wholesalers will draw down their inventories.  And not replace them.  So they will buy less from manufacturers.  Who will buy fewer raw commodities.

The continually falling Labor Force Participation Rate suggests the 2007-2009 Recession hasn’t Ended

So retail sales could be doing well during an economic contraction.  For awhile.  But everything above retail sales will already be hunkering down for the coming recession.  Cutting production.  And laying off people. Making unemployment another metric to measure a recession by.  If the unemployment rate rose by, say, 1.5 points during a given period of time the economy may be in a recession.  But there is a problem with using the unemployment rate.  The official unemployment rate (the U-3 number) doesn’t count everyone who can’t find a full-time job.

U-3 only counts those people who are looking for work.  They don’t count those who take a lower-paying part-time job because they can’t find a full-time job.  And they don’t count people who give up looking for work because there just isn’t anything out there.  Getting by on their savings.  Their spouse’s income.  Even cashing in their 401(k).  People doing this are an indication of a horrible economy.  And probably a pretty bad recession.  But they don’t count them.  Making the U-3 unemployment rate understate the true unemployment.  A better metric is the labor force participation rate.  The percentage of those who are able to work who are actually working.  A falling unemployment rate is good.  But if that happens at the same time the labor force participation rate is falling the economy is still probably in recession.  Despite the falling unemployment rate.

The NBER sifts through a lot of data to decide whether the economy is in recession or not.  Do politics enter their decision-making process?  Perhaps.  For they said the 2007-2009 recession ended in 2009.  The U-3 unemployment rate had fallen.  And GDP growth returned to positive territory.  But the labor force participation rate continued to fall.  Meaning people were disappearing from the labor force.  Indicating that the 2007-2009 recession hasn’t really ended.  In fact, one could even say that we have been in a depression.  For not only did a lot of our neighbors lose their jobs.  A lot of us lost our jobs, too.  And because the president who presided over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression didn’t lose his job in 2012, there has been no recovery.  So given our current economic picture the best metric to use appears to be what Ronald Reagan told us in 1980.  Which means things aren’t going to get better any time soon.

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U-3, U-6 and the Labor Force Participation Rate 2004 through February 2013

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 12th, 2013

History 101

During Obama’s First Term the U-3 and U-6 Unemployment Rates moved Further Apart

The latest employment data showed the official unemployment rate fell in February to 7.7% from 7.9% in January.  The Labor Department also reported the addition of 227,000 new jobs.  Proof, the economists say, that the economy is improving.  But when you dig deeper into the data you find otherwise.  For the economy may have added 227,000 new jobs but 296,000 jobs left the labor market.  And they didn’t count these people as unemployed.  So there was a net loss of jobs.  Despite the fall in the official unemployment rate.

We keep saying official unemployment rate for a reason.  For the government has six different unemployment rates.  The ‘official’ rate is what they call U-3.  Which doesn’t count a lot of people who can’t find full time work.  A more inclusive rate is the U-6 number (see Labor Force Participation Rate for an explanation of the U-3, U-6 and the labor force participation rate).  The U-6 rate counts pretty much everyone who can’t find a full-time job.  Including discouraged workers, the marginally attached and those working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job.  Before the Great Recession (during the George W. Bush administration) the U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates tracked closer together than they do now (during the Barack Obama administration).  As we can see in the following chart (see Data Retrieval: Labor Force Statistics (CPS) for data source).

Unemployment Rates U3 U6 2004-2013

During Bush’s second term U-3 was between 4% & 6%.  And U-6 was between 8% and 10%.  But during Obama’s first term U-3 shot above Bush’s U-6.  And Obama’s U-6 soared to twice Bush’s U-6.  Most of this was due to the subprime mortgage crisis.  And the resulting Great Recession.  But that doesn’t explain why the graphs moved further apart.  And why did they do this?  Was it because they were overstating U-6?  Were they understating U-3?  Or is there some other explanation?  It has to be something.  And it’s likely not good.

The Official Unemployment Rate has been Understated by at least 2.9 Points during the Obama Presidency

During President Bush’s second term there was on average a 4-point spread between U-3 and U-6.  During President Obama’s first term this point spread increased to 6.9.  A difference of 2.9 points.  Which if we subtract to U-6 or add to U-3 the graphs will move closer together.  So they track each other at the same distance apart from each other they did during Bush’s second term.  When you look at the labor participation factor and the lost jobs one can only assume we’re understating U-3.  And not overstating U-6.  So if we add 2.9 points to U-3 after December 2008 the graphs look like this.

Unemployment Rates U3 Adjusted U6 2004-2013

We can ignore the sharp rise in U-3 adjusted.  As the loss 2.9 points of the U-3 unemployment rate would not have been instantaneous once January 2009 hit.  But once we get to the new highs the graphs maintain the same distance from each other as they did during Bush’s second term.  Which means the official unemployment rate didn’t fall from approximately 10% to 8% during Obama’s first term.  It actually fell from 12.9% to 10.6%.  And that the current official unemployment rate is not 7.7%.  But 10.6%.  Which is, of course, 2.9 points higher.

So the official unemployment rate is higher than they report.  With the official unemployment being understated by at least 2.9 points.  And the economy is not improving like they say.  Anyone reading the jobs data can see this.  But the Obama administration and their friends in the media, as well as mainstream economists, all say everything is getting better.  Or they say it is just the new normal.  To provide some cover for their failed Keynesian economic policies.  Which failed to pull the economy out of the Great Depression.  They failed to pull the economy out of the stagflation of the Seventies.  And they are now failing to pull the economy out of the Great Recession.

The ‘New Normal’ under President Obama has been a Steadily Declining Labor Force Participation Rate

Keynesian economics calls for the government to have control of interest rates.  They keep interest rates artificially low.  To expand the money supply.  They also increase taxes.  And borrow money.  Just so they can spend.  A lot.  For Keynesian theory says when the economy falls into recession the government should spend.  Even if it requires running a deficit.  To generate economic activity.  But expanding the money supply only causes inflation.  And higher prices.  Which dampens economic activity.  Which is why we have never spent our way out of a recession.  And never will.

President Obama is a Keynesian.  His Keynesian policies have hindered, not helped, the economic recovery.  And his excessive regulations have further hindered the economic recovery.  He shut down the domestic oil industry on public lands.  His war on coal has laid off swaths of coal miners and others in the coal industry. His rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline has prevented the creation of thousands of new jobs.  His environmental regulations have increased the cost of doing business.  As has Obamacare.  Which has put a freeze on new hiring.  And pushed lot of full time people to part time.  Nothing this administration has done has helped the economy.  While most everything it has done has hurt the economy.  And we can see that when we look at the labor force participation rate.  When we graph it along with U-3 (the official rate not the adjusted rate) and U-6 (see Employment Situation Archived News Releases for data source).

Unemployment Rates U3 U6 Labor Participation Rate 2004-2013

And here we see what caused U-3 and U-6 to move further apart.  U-3 is understated because people are continually leaving the labor force.  Unable to find a job.  This is why we have a net loss of jobs even when they report a gain of 227,000 new jobs in February.  Or a gain in any other month.  This is why the economy hasn’t improved under President Obama.  Despite what the official unemployment rate is.  And despite all of the new jobs they’ve created.  Because the ‘new normal’ under President Obama has been a steadily declining labor force participation rate.  Meaning he is a job destroyer.  And the only reason why the unemployment rate falls is because these people disappear from the labor force and they just don’t count them anymore.  Sort of how the European employment picture improved after the plague.  So many people left the labor force by dying that it created a labor shortage.  And low unemployment.  The problem here is that these people didn’t die.  They’re still out there waiting to rejoin the labor force.  To hire into jobs that are just not there.  And it’s going to take a long, long time for the economy to absorb these people.  Meaning the economy won’t be getting better anytime soon.  Because it’s a lot worse than they’re reporting.

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Labor Force Participation Rate

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2013

Economics 101

The Official U-3 Unemployment Rate doesn’t count Everyone who can’t find a Full-Time Job

The unemployment rate fell in February 2012.  Yet more people are out of the workforce than they were in January.  Odd.  For the two seem to contradict each other.  For how can the workforce shrink when the unemployment rate falls.  Easy.  It just depends on who you count.  The federal government has a few ways to count unemployed people.  Specifically, they have six ways.

U-1  Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U-2  Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U-3  Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).

U-4  Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers.

U-5  Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

U-6  Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

As you can see they count more people at each of the six levels.  And the official U-3 unemployment rate doesn’t count a lot of people.  By the time you add in discouraged workers, the marginally attached and those working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job the unemployment rate increases.  With the U-6 number giving a truer picture of the employment picture.  Which currently stands at 14.3%.  And is a long way from the official 7.7%.  So even though the news reports are celebrating that the economy is improving because the unemployment rate fell from 7.9% to 7.7%, the U-6 unemployment rate stands at 14.3%.  Down from 14.4% in January 2012.  Which is pretty bad.  And little to celebrate about.

The U-6 Unemployment Rate counts all of the People who can’t find a Full-Time Job

To better understand these numbers we need to understand exactly who the people are that they are counting.  Who are the people that could be working.  Who are the people working.  And who are the people not working.  Which is all defined at Civilian Noninstitutional Population and Associated Rate and Ratio Measures for Model-Based Areas.  And summarized here:

The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.

Unemployment consists of all persons who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

The civilian labor force consists of all persons classified as employed or unemployed as described above.

The labor force participation rate represents the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population that is in the labor force.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percent of the civilian labor force.

The civilian labor force, then, equals the total of employed and unemployed people.  But note who they count as unemployed.  Only people who were looking for work during a 4-week period.  And those on a layoff subject to recall.  (Who didn’t have to look for work during that 4-week period.)  Which excludes everyone who gave up looking for work not subject to recall who can’t find a job.  People who are living on their savings, their credit cards, their spouse’s income, their retirement nest egg or even moving back in with their parents.  Or are working a part-time job or two because they can’t find a full-time job.  The U-6 rate counts all of these people.  Which is why it’s almost twice the official unemployment rate.  And why it’s a much better indicator of the employment picture.

The most Accurate Read of the Employment Picture is the Labor Force Participation Rate

So you now can see how the official unemployment rate can fall even though fewer people are working.  They calculate the unemployment rate by dividing unemployment by the civilian labor force.  And the smaller unemployment is the smaller the unemployment rate is.  Which it is when you don’t count all of the people who can’t find a job.  Which brings us to the labor force participation rate.  Which they calculate by dividing the civilian labor force (the employed plus the unemployed) by the civilian noninstitutional population (the total of the civilian population that could be working).  Which, like the U-6 unemployment rate, provides a truer picture of the employment picture.

The U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates improved in February.  Showing an improving employment picture.  While the labor force participation rate fell from 63.6% to 63.5%.  Which means those not in the labor force increased.  Going from 89,008,000 to 89,304,000.  An increase of 296,000 people who disappeared from the labor force.  Which is greater than the 227,000 new jobs created.  So even though the unemployment rate fell there was a net loss in jobs.  Which means the economy got worse.  Not better.

Mark Twain said facts don’t lie but liars figure.  And this is what he meant.  The employment picture is not improving.  But the government reports the 227,000 new jobs and the falling unemployment rate as signs of an improving economy.  But the most accurate read of the employment picture, the labor force participation rate, shows the economy is getting worse.  As everyone who is struggling in the private sector already knows.  So someone is lying.  And it isn’t the facts.  It is those who want to hide the damage the government’s policies are doing to the economy.  So they can keep trying the same failed policies of the past.  Keynesian economic policies.  Favoring more government intervention into the private economy.  While dragging out the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.  Another period of failed Keynesian economic policies.  For Keynesian policies are anti-business policies.  But pro-government growth policies.  Which is why liars figure.  And the labor force participation rate falls.

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The Unemployment Rate Falls but the Economy is Still Horrible

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2012

Week in Review

The Labor Department released the official unemployment rate (U-3) for November.  It fell from 7.9% to 7.7%.  Hurrah.  Sadly, the U-6 unemployment rate remains north of 14%.  Which is a better reflection of the economic climate as it shows basically everyone who can’t find a full-time job.  That’s about an 8 point gap between U-6 and U-3.  When George W. Bush was president this gap was only about 4 points.  Which means the economy is far worse than the official unemployment rate tells us it is.   In fact, if you plot these numbers along with the labor force participation rate (the percentage of people who can work that are actually working) the employment picture gets even worse (see Alternative measures of labor underutilization and Labor Force Participation Rate on the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The only reason why the unemployment rate has been falling is that people are disappearing from the labor force.  Since President Obama took office the labor force participation rate has fallen from about 66% down to 63.5%.  A decline of 2.5 points.  Or a fall of some 3.79%.  Which is more than President Obama has been able to lower the unemployment rate.  Worse, the labor force participation rate has fallen at a greater rate than the unemployment rate.  Which explains why there are fewer people working today than when President Obama took office.

Why the horrible numbers?  Is it because of George W. Bush?  No.  People aren’t working because this is one of the worse business climates in U.S. history.  Higher regulations.  And higher taxes on the horizon.  And, of course, Obamacare.  The great job killer.  Businesses have basically frozen all hiring in the face of the impending Obamacare new taxes, fees and penalties.  And started reducing their full-time workforce.  Cutting hours of their workers to push them into part-time status.  As they cannot pass these costs on to their customers without losing their customers.  For people just aren’t going to pay $9.50 for a Big Mac.  If they do they will be spending less at McDonald’s overall.  And everywhere else.  Because they simply won’t be able to afford as much as they used to.

You will hear economists saying how much better things are getting.  But they’re not.  And won’t be for a long, long time.  At least not under this president.  Or his Keynesian policies.  For President Obama is a Keynesian.  But there is a problem with Keynesian stimulus spending.  It doesn’t work.  As proven by his $800 billion stimulus bill that failed to create any jobs.  At least, based on the historical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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