Saturday, February 7, 2015

US Job Growth Fastest Since Dot-Com Boom of the 1990s

Strong upward revisions reported yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics pushed US payroll job gains to levels not seen since the boom of the 1990s. According to preliminary data, the economy added 257,000 total payroll jobs in January 2015. The report revised gains for November upward from 353,000 to 423,000 and those from December from 252,000 to 329,000.

The government sector lost 10,000 jobs in January. The government sector had added jobs in November and December, but over the year since January 2014, government jobs were down by 17,000. All levels of government shed jobs in January, but the federal government showed the largest losses. All told, the government sector has lost 688,000 jobs, including a net loss of 55,000 at the federal level, since the inauguration of President Barak Obama six years ago, contrary to his opponents’ idea that his administration would give rise to an “explosive growth of government jobs.”

Meanwhile, private sector jobs have boomed. The economy added 3,127,000 private payroll jobs between January 2014 and January 2015. That easily eclipsed the peak rate of job creation during the housing bubble of the early 2000’s, and was the strongest 12-month showing since 1997, at the height of the boom. >>>Read more

Follow this link to view or download a slideshow with additional charts of the latest US employment situation

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fifty Years of Macroeconomic Misery: Arthur Okun's Misery Index and Modern Variants

Remember the 1960s? The 1970s? Back then, inflation surged from one peak to another but failed to deliver the low unemployment rates promised by the Phillips curve. In fit of frustration, economist Arthur Okun invented what he called the misery index—the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates. As the chart shows, those were miserable years indeed.

Today we don’t hear much about the misery index. True, the index hit a 20-year peak in the depths of the Great Recession, but people hardly noticed. Now it is back to a relatively comfortable level and still headed down. In an era of chronically low inflation, Okun’s index just isn’t miserable enough to make the headlines. Couldn’t we add something to spice it up a little?

Spicing Up the Misery Index

Economists Robert Barro, and more recently, Steve Hanke, have tried to do just that. Both have added measures of real output growth and an interest rate to the misery index in an attempt to capture macroeconomic factors other than inflation and unemployment that make people unhappy. >>>Read more

Follow this link to view or download a slideshow version of this post