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Initial jobless claims: positive this week, but close to crossing two thresholds for concern

Initial jobless claims: positive this week, but close to crossing two thresholds for concern

I have started to monitor initial jobless claims to see if there are any signs of stress.

My two thresholds are:

1. If the four week average on claims is more than 10% above its expansion low.
2. If the YoY% change in the monthly average turns higher.

Here’s this week’s update.

The four week average is 9.8% above its recent low:

On a weekly basis, YoY the average is +0.3% higher than this week last June.

Last June the monthly average was 222,000. With one week still to go this June, it is 221,250:


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Donald Trump – Don’t Insult Our Team at the World Cup

Donald Trump – Don’t Insult Our Team at the World Cup

At 3PM EDT on Friday, I’ll be watching the coverage via Fox of our great women’s soccer team playing the host team in Paris. It is only the quarterfinals of the World Cup and yet this may be the game of the entire match. Unfortunately the Idiot in Chief has been writing a lot of insulting tweets:

President Donald Trump has invited the U.S. women’s soccer team to the White House, regardless of whether they win the World Cup, after Megan Rapinoe’s assertion that she is “not going to the f—ing White House.” Rapinoe, who has described herself as a “walking protest” to Trump’s policies, made her recent comments about a potential White House visit to soccer magazine Eight by Eight.

I support Megan Rapinoe and guess what – her teammates do too:

I am not going to fake it, hobnob with the president, who is clearly against so many of the things that I am (for) and so many of the things that I actually am,” Rapinoe told SI. “I have no interest in extending our platform to him.” Fellow U.S. star Alex Morgan also has said she would decline an invitation to the White House, telling Time Magazine that she doesn’t “stand for a lot of things the current office stands for.” “We don’t have to be put in this little box,” Morgan told Time in an interview published last month. “There’s the narrative that’s been said hundreds of times about any sort of athlete who’s spoken out politically. ‘Stick to sports.’ We’re much more than that, OK?”

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Manufacturing job losses now look virtually certain

Manufacturing job losses now look virtually certain

I’ll have a post going up at Seeking Alpha later, but between a steep decline in the manufacturing work week, lackluster regional Fed manufacturing indexes (still barely positive), a turndown in durable goods orders (in part due to Boeing’s woes), and increasing inventories, it now looks nearly certain that there will be an actual decline in manufacturing jobs over the next twelve months.
To put this in perspective, here are the annual gains (losses in 2010) in manufacturing jobs through the end of 2018:

Here is the same data monthly through May from the beginning of Obama’s second term:

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Democratic Presidential Candidates Addressing Maternal Healthcare

Back in April, I finished up an article for ConsumerSafety.Org called A Woman’s Right to Safe Healthcare Outcomes. The topics covered in this as given to me by ConsumerSafety.Org were Clinical Trials, Essure, and Maternal Mortality. All of the topics dealt with women’s healthcare. Of the three issues addressed, I found Maternal Mortality to be the most compelling.

I told the story of a white upper middle class couple, Lauren Bloomstein a nurse and her husband Larry a surgeon. They went to the hospital to have their first baby. Lauren was a healthy young woman who did everything right. Unfortunately Lauren’s OB before and during her delivery missed many of the signs she was suffering from preeclampsia or high blood pressure. Lauren died after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. It is not unusual for doctors failing to heed the warning signs a women or her symptoms are alerting them too.

The warning signs of life-endangering problems were there, were missed (pain in the kidney area), or ignored (abnormal high blood pressure for Lauren). Excuses for other causes of the pain (reflux) were made, and pain killers administered to dull the pain and other symptoms (blood pressure) not explored while she deteriorated in front of her husband who suspected preeclampsia. The missing part of this was the protocol to diagnose early on and prevent Lauren from slipping into late stages of preeclampsia. This is not an isolated incidence as the deaths of women giving birth keep increasing as evidenced in the chart.

Even with the PPACA, expanded Medicaid in place; and when compared to their Canadian sisters, American women are three times more likely to die from the start of a pregnancy up till one year after the birth of a child (defined by the Centers for Disease Control). The death rate for American women is 26.4 deaths per 100,000 as opposed to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 in Canada (Chart). The ratio worsens when compared to Scandinavia countries as American women are six times as likely to die as Scandinavian women.

There are two stories, one for economically secure women and another for minority, native American, rural, and lower income women.

The statistics worsens for women of color with their being more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth and are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, African-American women are 5.6 times more likely to die than white women. Amongst women diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension (eclampsia and pre-eclampsia), African-American and Latina women were 9.9 and 7.9 times in danger of dying than white women with the same complications. Native American and Alaskan Native women experience similar discriminatory care. Half of all U.S. births are covered by Medicaid and covers women up to two months past delivery leaving a substantial gap after child birth when other issues can arise.

Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy/advocacy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; “We worry a lot about vulnerable little babies and we don’t pay enough attention to those things catastrophic for women.”

The emphasis has been on safe baby care and safe birthing which lead to a significant decline in baby mortality. As reported in a Propublica, NPR report, the difference in “maternal mortality numbers contrast sharply with the impressive progress in saving babies’ lives.” Maternal death rates while giving birth and up to one year later has increased by an approximate 10 deaths per 100,000 since 2000 till 2015 or greater than the 9.2 deaths per 100,000 in the U.K, (Chart).

In my email account, I found my usual Health Affairs article with a lead off title “The Maternal Health Crisis: Policies of 2020 Candidates

“Many of the Democratic presidential candidates met in Columbia, SC at the Planned Parenthood Women’s Health Forum to share their reproductive health proposals, including plans for maternity care. On Thursday, June 26th, they will engage in their first debate. Donald Trump launched his re-election bid on June 18th, 2019. While his campaign website does not include any specific reference to maternal mortality, members of his administration have recently brought attention to rural maternal health challenges.

This renewed focus on maternity care is desperately needed: U.S. rates of maternal mortality are the highest in the developed world and have been rising since the 1990s, with women giving birth today more likely to die in childbirth than their mothers. These adverse outcomes are also marked by significant racial disparities, with non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native women at least 3 times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to die around the time of childbirth.”

About time.

run75441 (Bill H)

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Whither The Price Of Oil?

Whither The Price Of Oil?

I do not know, which is a kind of silly way to start a post, but pretty obviously this is an opening to talk about some other matters, especially the US-Iran situation.  However, I want to point out some things  that have been on my mind.  In particular, while oil price volatility has not been super extreme recently compared to some movements in the last decade and a half, the degree of uncertainty and confusion about what is going on in the oil markets has become extreme.  This is heavily a subjective judgment based on following on a daily basis, which links to several stories a day, along with what has been happening to prices themselves.  In particular what has struck me for some time has been how  frequently I see completely contradictory stories on a given day, one declaring that prices are going up  (definitely!) while another declares exactly the opposite (definitely!).  This has been happening several times a week for quite some time now.

Here is the rough history of oil prices over the last two decades roughly.  I shall quote West Texas Intermediate (WTI), but keep in mind that for the last several years the more important global price of Brent crude has generally been about $10 higher than WTI.  So, the price reached a low in the late 90s, which coincided with a booming US economy, which even got down briefly into the teens of $, although was mostly in the 20s.  This began to rise gradually with some hiccups after the turn of the millennium and reached an all time nominal peak in July 2008 of $147, which was followed by a plunge to about $30 in November four months later as the financial crash also cranked up.  The price then rose again jerkily getting up to roughly the $100-120 range by 2011 until mid-2014, when it dropped over a half year to the $30 range, rose again to nearly over $80 by late 2018, then to fall to $40 by the end of the year, then rising to over $70 by April, then to fall back to the mid-$50s today, currently wobbling around.  So, a lot of moving up and down, but not as sharply as some years  ago.

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New home sales: is housing developing a price “choke collar”?

New home sales: is housing developing a price “choke collar”?

So, new single family home sales for May were reported light this morning:

Because this series is very volatile and heavily revised, as always take this with a grain of salt.

To smooth out some of the volatility, I pay more attention to the three month moving average, which at 670k is slightly below that of that average for the past two reports, and also slightly below the late 2017 peak. Still it is above all of 2018, so it nevertheless adds to the evidence that the bottom for housing is in.

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Kevin Drum Talking ’bout my generation

(Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

Kevin Drum Talking ’bout my generation

Kevin Drum has a funny but also genuinely interesting post on how boomers are not really to blame for messing up America (he half tongue in cheek blames the silent generation). I don’t think the defensiveness is entirely an act. He does concede

Now, if you want to blame boomers for welfare reform, sure. Bill Clinton was (barely) a boomer. If you want to blame boomers for the Iraq War, I guess so. George Bush was (barely) a boomer—though the real force behind it was Dick Cheney (b. 1941). If you want to blame us for screwing up Obamacare, that seems sort of churlish, but whatever. Barack Obama was (barely) a boomer—though the real roadblock to a public option was Joe Lieberman (b. 1942) and his centrist pals.

I comment

One interesting thing, you list welfare reform with invading Iraq (and also the ACA but call that churlish) and admit that it was a boomer misdeed (blaming Cheney for Iraq and Lieberman for weaknesses of the ACA which was still a great step forward). This interests me, because our one point of regular disagreement was over how horrible welfare reform is (it is current policy so the present tense is necessary).

Oddly, I learned of the association with a sharp increase in deep poverty here (I think your second post of the series in which you briefly conceded that welfare reform was severely damaging). I never understood your motivation . Now I see how important 2 years can be (also this post makes me feel young — thanks). I was born in 1960 so late boom (or between boomer and gen X). I definitely do not consider Bill Clinton to be from my generation. Welfare reform is something old guys did to my country.

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New article in Shelterforce highlights EU state aid rules

New article in Shelterforce highlights EU state aid rules

Greg LeRoy and I have written an article at Shelterforce explaining the basics of the European Union’s rules governing subsidies, or “state aid” in EU-speak. As the article is ungated, and regular readers will remember much of the detail, I will not quote it here. Suffice it to say that the continuing reverberations of Amazon’s HQ2 project have opened space to shine a brighter light on economic development subsidies.

In addition, Tim Bartik of the Upjohn Institute has a series of thoughtful tweets commenting on our article. His one reservation with the EU approach appears to be that even with the scaling down of the maximum subsidy allowed for large projects, the amount allowable might still be too high. If I’m not reading too much into his comments, it seems he would favor an absolute dollar cap on subsidies for the largest projects. He also admits in his counterfactual analysis of Foxconn in Wisconsin that the Racine/Kenosha area wouldn’t be eligible for the highest level of incentives under the EU rules, so his scenario of a $1.7 billion subsidy being possible isn’t fully accurate. In fact, it looks to me that Kenosha and Racine counties are just slightly below the national average for income per capita, and certainly not less than 75% of the average, the key figure that would make an EU region able to have even a 25% regional aid maximum.* The next highest aid maximum allowed in the European Union is 15%, and 34% of that (the scaling factor for investment over 100 million euros) is just 5.1%. Thus, a $10 billion Foxconn project would be eligible at most for a tad over $510 million in subsidies, not $1.7 billion.

I’d love to hear your take on our article.

* More technically, a per capita GDP below 75% of the EU average is required for designation as a “107(3)(a) area,” named for the treaty paragraph it is listed in. See Regional Aid Guidelines for 2014-2020, paragraph 150. 25% is the lowest aid maximum in a 107(3)(a) area, while 15% is the highest aid maximum in a 107(3)(c) area, available to regions between 75% and 100% of the EU average, plus a few exceptional situations such as very low population density.

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A tale of two timeframes

A tale of two timeframes

No data today Monday, so while we are waiting for new home sales tomorrow, let me step back a little and give you an updated overview of my thinking.

It boils down to: the short term forecast — over the next 4 to 8 months — looks flat at best, and could develop into an actual downturn. The longer term — over one year out — looks more positive.

Let me start with the positive long term forecast first.

Long term interest rates have gone down significantly. Most importantly, mortgage rates have declined from about 5% to 4%. As a result, overall housing permits and starts, new single family home sales (which will be updated tomorrow) and through last Friday’s release of existing home sales have all turned higher:

The last big holdout, single family permits, probably made a bottom in April.


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