Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Scenes from the employment report

by New Deal democrat

Scenes from the employment report

As I described in my detailed post on the April jobs report, below, almost everything moved in the right direction, and significantly so.  Let me lay out a few graphs to show the longer-term stronger and weaker points.

In the good news department, the U6 underemployment rate has been falling at a good clip in the last few months, and at 8.6%, is about 0.6% from representing a reasonably “full” employment situation:

Part of the U6 calculation is those employed part time for economic reasons.  This isn’t down to normal yet, but continues to make good progress:

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Messing Up Badly In Korea

by Barkley Rosser

Messing Up Badly In Korea

In many areas where many were worried that President Trump would do this that or the other crazy thing he has held back for one reason or another.  But one very serious location where he has recently made a total botch of things has been in Korea, a series of unforced errors.  Of course before he got into it in Korea it looked like he might get in a shooting war with China, but then he decided that Xi Jinping is a great guy after the Chinese paid his family gobs of money and Trump realized that he needed to make nicey nice with Xi in order to deal with unquestionably serious problem of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, possibly the most dangerous situation in the world right now.

So then he proceeded to talk tough on North Korea, making noises about starting a war with them if they tested a nuclear weapon (which they did not, making a failed rocket test instead) with this supposedly being backed up by him supposedly sending the USS Carl Vinson to back up his threats, only to have it come out a few days later that the Vinson was sailing off into the Indian Ocean.  I gather it has finally shown up in the neighborhood, but now Trump has messed up with longtime US  ally South Korea, the only party involved in this arguably more important than China even.

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April jobs report: a blowout — except (sigh) for wages

by New Deal democrat

April jobs report: a blowout — except (sigh) for wages


  • +211,000 jobs added
  • U3 unemployment rate down -0.1% from 4.5% to 4.4%
  • U6 underemployment rate down 0.3% from 8.9% to 8.6%

Here are the headlines on wages and the chronic heightened underemployment:

Wages and participation rates

  • Not in Labor Force, but Want a Job Now:  down -74,000 from 5.781 million to 5.707 million
  • Part time for economic reasons: down -281,000 from 5.553 million to 5.272 million
  • Employment/population ratio ages 25-54: up +0.1% from 78.5% to 78.6%
  • Average Weekly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: up $.06 from $21.90 to $21.96,  up +2.3% YoY.  (Note: you may be reading different information about wages elsewhere. They are citing average wages for all private workers. I use wages for nonsupervisory personnel, to come closer to the situation for ordinary workers.)

Holding Trump accountable on manufacturing and mining jobs

Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs.  Is he keeping this promise?

  • Manufacturing jobs rose by +6,000 vs. the last severn years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of 10,300 manufacturing jobs were added each month.
  • Coal mining jobs rose by +200 vs. the last severn years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of -300 jobs were lost each month

February was revised upward by +13,000. March was revised downward by -19,000, for a net change of -6,000.

The more leading numbers in the report tell us about where the economy is likely to be a few months from now. These were positive with one exception.

  • the average manufacturing workweek rose +0.1 from 40.6 hours to 40.7 hours.  This is one of the 10 components of the LEI.
  • construction jobs increased by +5,000. YoY construction jobs are up +173,000.
  • temporary jobs increased by +5,800.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less increased by +1,000 from 2,334,000 to 2,335,000.  The post-recession low was set nearly 18 months ago at 2,095,000.

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Social media and document dumps

Via NYT comes this follow up to the document dump story last night in France:

Yet within hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.

Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks. Mr. Posobiec remains the second-most mentioned individual on Twitter in connection with the hashtag behind WikiLeaks, according to a review of the past 100,000 Twitter posts published since late Friday.

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Holding Trump to account on manufacturing and mining jobs: setting the benchmarks

From Wednesday postings:

by New Deal democrat

Holding Trump to account on manufacturing and mining jobs: setting the benchmarks

Tomorrow is the April employment report, and at this point we can begin to hold Trump and the GOP Congress at least somewhat (but not fully for about 3-6 more months) accountable for the trend. For example, by this point 8 years ago, Obama and the Democratic Congress had passed the stimulus program, and the hemorrhaging of jobs, while continuing, gradually lessened before completely turning around 9 months later.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump made some pretty specific promises to bring back both manufacturing and mining jobs. Those promises were a major part of his economic appeal to the working class. So, beginning tomorrow, it’s time to start holding him to account.

Today let’s set the benchmarks. As noted above, the economy finally started to add jobs at the beginning of 2010. So let’s calculate how many jobs were gained or lost in the Obama recovery, as a monthly average, for those 7 years.

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Totally twitty Chait hate

by Robert Waldmann

Totally twitty Chait hate

I admire Jonathan Chait. In particular, I admire his denunciation of those (e.g. Barack Obama) who criticize “some in my party” without naming names. His rule is that if one criticizes an argument, position or view, one should name and quote someone. Otherwise the temptation to debate straw men is irresistable. This fits Chait’s general (confessed) inclination to be mean — he doesn’t mind criticizing people by name.

I often think of Chait’s rule and, when attemting to enforce it use the phrase “two minutes Chait” (rhymes with “two minutes hate”).

His recent post “This Won’t end Well for House Republicans” caused me to advocate (in comments) a much more extreme rule. I argue that commentators should never paraphrase or quote indirectly. I think a good rule would be that all references to anything written or said by anyone must be of the form of a direct quotation followed (if necessary) by an argument that the person really means something other that what they apparently just said.

I think that allowing paraphrases and indirect quotations makes the temptation to, say, claim that Al Gore said he invented the internet, irresistable.

My example is Chait himself. He wrote

Nancy Pelosi once said that Congress had to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in it. Republican demagogues pretended Pelosi was confessing to having hidden the details of her bill until its passage, but, as anybody who read the context of her remarks could see, that is not what she meant. Pelosi was dismissing the bill’s bad polling as an artifact of public ignorance. The law’s individual provisions were highly popular, and she believed the law, once functioning, would gain public support, because it would help far more people than it harmed.

I commented:

Often I bore myself. Here by grinding a very old ax. You are right to criticize Republican demagogues for misleading people about what Pelosi meant. But you misquoted her. According to Matt Yglesias (who I trust because he presents a direct quote with, you know, quotation marks) she said ““We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.” She was not confessing that she belonged to a group which didn’t know what was in it. She was saying that other people (who were attending the ” National Association of Counties’ 2010 legislative conference” didn’t know what was in it.

Your paraphrase “Congress had to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in it.” is materially false. You assert that she asserted that Congress didn’t know what was in it. She did no such thing. I am honestly disappointed that, when your point is that her meaning was distorted, you used a false indirect quotation which is consistent with the misleading interpretation (and not with your interpretation).

You have a rule that, when you criticize, you name names (and quote quotes). This is a very good rule. I think you should have another rule. When you claim someone said “that” something is true, you should rewrite — use a direct quotation. The case of Nancy Pelosi who didn’t say that Congress had to pass the bill to know what was in it (like the case of Al Gore who didn’t claim to have invented the internet) demonstrates to me that indirect quotations and paraphrases have no legitimate useful role in the political debate.

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Censorship and money?

Via the NYT comes this major dilemma as a next step in the “money is speech” campaign:

The head of President Trump’s re-election campaign accused CNN of “censorship” on Tuesday afternoon after the broadcast network refused to run the group’s latest advertisement.

CNN said it would run the 30-second television spot, a celebration of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, only if the campaign removed a section that featured the words “fake news” superimposed over several TV journalists, including Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and others from MSNBC, PBS, ABC and CBS.

CNN defended the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”

In response, Michael Glassner, the executive director of Mr. Trump’s campaign committee, called the decision “censorship pure and simple.”

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Our Treasury Secretary

Larry Summers on Treasury Secretary Mnuchin (via WP), to put it mildly:

Last week I suggested that I felt sorry for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He found himself forced by circumstance and his president to say and do things that undermined his and Treasury’s credibility.

I wish there was an external force that could be blamed for the secretary’s comments on Monday, but they look from the outside like unforced errors.

At Michael Milken’s annual conference for investment professionals, he crowed to the bankers present that “you should all thank me for your bank stocks doing better.” I cannot conceive of any of the 11 other secretaries I have known making such a statement. Leave aside the question of whether whatever credit is to be claimed should be claimed on behalf of the president. Since when is the stock price of banks the objective or the standard of success for economic policy? And when, as will inevitably occur, bank stock prices decline, will the secretary accept the blame?

It was quite a day.

(Dan here…More in the article.)

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Social Security and North West plan

Lifted from comments by Dale Coberly

This year’s Social Security Trustees Report seems to be late as usual.

But this is the LAST year that a gradual increase in the payroll tax can begin and still solve some of the less understood problems of the projected shortfall in SS funding: This is mostly that a gradual increase starting now preserves the Trust Fund at it’s current level… meaning the Congress doesn’t have to find the money to pay back it’s debt TO Social Security. The interest from that Trust Fund will keep the needed tax increase about 1% smaller than it otherwise will need to be. And the needed increase of one tenth of one percent per year will eliminate the projected “actuarial” shortfall entirely.. and that should eliminate the “sky is falling” argument of those who want to destroy Social Security.

Trouble is that neither the Left nor the Right are interested in actually solving the SS shortfall. The Right wants to kill Social Security by calling it welfare. The Left wants to kill Social Security by turning it into welfare.

After this year, SS can still be “saved” by the one tenth percent per year increase in the payroll tax, but will not have the advantages alluded to here. Because the Trust Fund is being drawn down, the needed tax rate to prevent an actual shortfall in about 2030 will rise fairly rapidly. If nothing is done, the tax rate would need to rise about 2% all at once in about 2030 or so. This would not be a real burden to people even at that, but they will see it as such… be told to see it as such… and the bad guys will seize the opportunity to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, and even “tax the rich” as the first step to turning it into welfare as we knew it and guaranteeing that event he honest rich — who currently are NOT burdened by SS – wiil be burdened by it and join the campaign against it.

Even raising the tax rate about 1 and a half percent now would solve the projected shortfall for the rest of the century. This solution is objected to by those who want to confuse you because it would leave a need for another “significant” tax raise in 2093. That raise would be about one half of one percent.. at a time when wages will be more than 100% higher than they are today. I think we can leave that problem to those who will face it. It’s not my favorite solution, but those who tell you we must “solve the SS problem once and for all” are hoping you are stupid enough to think they are saying something sensible.

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