Tag Archives: recovery

One Recession or Many? Double-Dip Downturns in Europe

 
The recent release of a revised set of GDP statistics by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed that growth had not quite, as previously thought, been negative for two consecutive quarters in the winter of 2011-12.  The point, as it was reported, was that a UK recession (a second dip after the Great Recession of 2008-09) was now erased from the history books — and that the Conservative government would take a bit of satisfaction from this fact.    But it should not.    

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Perspective on the Latest Employment Numbers

The BLS this morning reported U.S. job gains of 163,000 in July, which is good news in the eyes of the financial markets.  The jobs data had been disappointing over the preceding three spring months.  Before that, during the winter months, employment growth was strong.

In terms of perceptions and politics, pundits will say that today’s report is good news for Obama’s re-election prospects, just as they said the spring jobs numbers were bad news for the President.  But my interest is in economics and reality, rather than perceptions and politics.   From a longer-term perspective, a few important facts have not been adequately discussed.

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Did Obama Turn Around the Economy?

With November’s election fast approaching, the Republican candidates seeking to challenge President Barack Obama claim that his policies have done nothing to support recovery from the recession that he inherited in January 2009. If anything, they claim, his fiscal stimulus made matters worse.  And, despite recent improvement, the level of unemployment indeed remains far too high.not blame George W. Bush for the recession that began two months after he took office in 2001. There hadn’t yet been time for bad policies to damage the economy.)

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Recap: Obama Recovery, Emerging Markets & 2012 Crash

A recent video interview from Project Syndicate recaps some of my recent op-eds.  It covers the following territory:

  •           The Obama Recovery.    The U.S. economy was in free fall in late 2008, whether measured by GDP statistics, the monthly jobs numbers, or inter-bank spreads.     Was the end of the recession in mid-2009 attributable to policies adopted by President Obama?   A full evaluation of that question to economists’ standards would require delving into the complexity of mathematical models.  The public generally has a simpler standard:   was the impact big enough to be visible to the naked eye?   Amazingly, the answer is “yes.”   Whichever of those statistics one looks at, and whether it is coincidence or not:  the economic free-fall ended almost precisely the month that Obama took office, January 2009.
  •           Emerging markets have generally had much better economic fundamentals over the last decade than advanced economies.    For example, one third of developing countries have succeeded in breaking the historical syndrome of procyclical (destabilizing) fiscal policy.   For the first time, they took advantage of the boom of 2003-08 to strengthen their budget balances, which allowed a fiscal easing when the global recession hit in 2008-09.
  •           The 15-year cycle in EMs.  Market swings that start out based firmly on fundamentals can eventually go too far.   Some emerging markets like Turkey look vulnerable this year.  A crash would fit the biblical pattern: seven fat years, followed by seven lean years.  Here are the last three cycles of capital flows to developing countries:
    • 1975-81: 7 fat years (“recycling petrodollars”)
    • 1982: crash (the international debt crisis)
    • 1983-1989: 7 lean years (the “Lost Decade” in Latin America)
    • 1990-1996: 7 fat years (Emerging Market boom)
    • 1997: crash (the East Asia crisis)
    • 1997-2003: 7 lean years (currency crises spread globally)
    • 2003-2011: 7 fat years (the triumph of the BRICs)
    • 2012: ?
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GDP Reattains Pre-Recession Peak

This morning the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its first estimate for 2011 GDP.   It showed national output for the first time surpassing the pre-recession peak, which occurred in the last quarter of 2007.    (See chart below)    The expansion in 2011 was led by autos, computers, and other manufactured goods.

Given that the economy hit its trough in mid-2009, the long slow climb since then has been disappointing.   The outcome turns out to have been worse than the conventional wisdom that sharp declines tend to be followed by sharp recoveries.   On the other hand, the outcome turns out to have been somewhat better than the Reinhart-Rogoff thesis that when the cause of a recession is a financial crisis, the recovery tends to take many years.  

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Barack Obama’s Biggest Economic Mistake Has Been…

In the current issue of Foreign Policy, the editors of the FP Survey ask “top experts” for pithy solutions to the world’s economic problems, “twitter style.”  Some of the answers:

THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS …
Anti-market bias. -Bryan Caplan •  Procrastination. -Peter Diamond •  Short-term thinking. -Esther Dyson •  A euro meltdown. -Dean Baker  •  Tax-cut fanatics. -Jeffrey Frankel •  The bond market. -Andy Sumner •

MY OUT-OF-THE-BOX SUGGESTION TO REVIVE THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS
Wipe out debts. -Daron Acemoglu •  Require candidates for national office to pass ninth-grade tests on arithmetic, history, and geography. -Jeffrey Frankel •  Double down on science. -Tyler Cowen •  A government lottery where winners have mortgages, student loans, or other debt paid off. -Mark Thoma •  We don’t need “out-of-the-box” solutions; we need “head-out-of-the-sand” ones. -Adam Hersh •  Pray. -David Smick

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NBER Eggheads Finally Proclaim End of Recession

              The NBER‘s Business Cycle Dating Committee, of which I am a member, announced this morning that June 2009 was the trough of the recession that began in December 2007.    It was the longest recession since the 1930s.

              It is the fate of the Committee to be teased mercilessly every time we make one of our formal declarations of a turning point in the economy.   We get it from both directions:    We waited too late to call the end of the recession, or we did it too early.     (Occasionally someone makes both criticisms simultaneously!)   Even The Daily Show got in on the fun this time.

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Job Market Confirms End of Recession

The recession is over.   The last piece has fallen into place, with the BLS announcement that employment rose in March.

Identifying the beginnings and ends of recessions has been difficult in recent decades because the two most important indicators, output and employment, have sometimes behaved differently from each other.  Most notoriously, in the recovery that began in November 2001, employment lagged far behind economic growth.  If one had gone by the labor market, one might have called it a three year recession.  But if one had gone by GDP, one might have wondered whether there was a recession at all.

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Lag in Job Numbers Behind GDP Growth is No Worse than in Past Recoveries

 

At first glance, the job numbers of the last week seem to offer a mixed and confusing picture.   On the one hand, today’s headline from the Bureau of Labor Statistics certainly sounds like good news:  the unemployment rate finally dropped below 10.0% — to 9.7%.   On the other hand, today’s establishment survey of employment, which most of the time is a more reliable measure than the unemployment rate, still shows job change numbers that are negative.   Furthermore, recent numbers on claims for unemployment benefits have been discouraging.   

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The Roller Coaster of Economic Indicators

The economy has been on a roller coaster ride since the cyclical peak of December 2007. (See illustration.) The gradual slide of early 2008 turned into a terrifying freefall in the last quarter of 2008 (after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy) and the first quarter of 2009. Now the train is probably at the bottom of the roller coaster valley.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators, represented by the first car in the train, was this morning reported to have risen for the seventh consecutive month in October. Similarly, consumer confidence is substantially improved relative to February (though it, like all economic statistics, has experienced some bumps in the ride). The important middle cars, which represent measures of aggregate output, probably reached bottom in the early summer, and then started back up.  The BEA’s advanced estimate for GDP growth in the third quarter was 3 ½ % .

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