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Posts Tagged ‘recession

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”*…

In a stark sign of the economic inequality that has marked the pandemic recession and recovery, Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the virus struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working. 

The turnaround in total wages underscores how disproportionately America’s job losses have afflicted workers in lower-income occupations rather than in higher-paying industries, where employees have actually gained jobs as well as income since early last year.

In February 2020, Americans earned $9.66 trillion in wages and salaries, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the Commerce Department data. By April, after the virus had flattened the U.S. economy, that figure had shrunk by 10%. It then gradually recovered before reaching $9.67 trillion in December, the latest period for which data is available. 

Those dollar figures include only wages and salaries that people earned from jobs. They don’t include money that tens of millions of Americans have received from unemployment benefits or the Social Security and other aid that goes to many other households. The figures also don’t include investment income… 

The figures document that the vanished earnings from 8.9 million Americans who have lost jobs to the pandemic remain less than the combined salaries of new hires and the pay raises that the 150 million Americans who have kept their jobs have received.

The job cuts resulting from the pandemic recession have fallen heavily on lower-income workers across the service sector— from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues. By contrast, tens of millions of higher-income Americans, especially those able to work from home, have managed to keep or acquire jobs and continue to receive pay increases.

“We’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Richard Deitz, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, referring to the concentration of job losses. “It’s a totally different kind of downturn than we’ve experienced in modern times.”

The figures also underscore the unusually accelerated nature of this recession. As a whole, both the job losses that struck early last spring and the initial rebound in hiring that followed have happened much faster than they did in previous recessions and recoveries. After the Great Recession, for example, it took nearly 2 1/2 years for wages and salaries to regain their pre-recession levels…

One reason why the job losses have had relatively little impact on the nation’s total pay is that so many of the affected employees worked part time. The average work week in the industry that includes hotels, restaurants and bars is just below 26 hours. That’s the shortest such figure among 13 major industries tracked by the government. The next shortest is retail, at about 31 hours. The average for all industries is nearly 35 hours. 

The recovery in wages and salaries helps explain why some states haven’t suffered as sharp a drop in tax revenue as many had feared. That is especially true for states that rely on progressive taxes that fall more heavily on the rich. California, for example, said last month that it has a $15 billion budget surplus. Yet many cities are still struggling, and local transit agencies, such as New York City’s subway, have been hammered by the pandemic.

The wage and salary data also helps explain the steady gains in the stock market, which have been led by high-tech companies whose products are being heavily purchased and used by higher-income Americans, such as Apple iPads, Peloton bikes, or Amazon’s online shopping.

This week, the New York Fed released research that underscored how focused the job losses have been. For people making less than $30,000 a year, employment has fallen 14% as of December. For those earning more than $85,000, it has actually risen slightly. For those in-between, employment has fallen 4%… 

Some companies have cut wages in this recession, but on the whole the many millions of Americans fortunate enough to keep their jobs have generally received pay raises at largely pre-recession rates. Some of those income gains likely reflect cost-of-living raises; the Commerce Department’s wage and salary data isn’t adjusted for inflation…

Truman Bewley, a retired Yale University economist who wrote a book about the concept of sticky wages, said that most companies have a key core of workers they rely on through hard times and are reluctant to cut pay for them. 

And there’s another reason, Bewley said, why many companies cut jobs instead of pay. While researching his book, he said a factory manager told him why his company did so: “It gets the misery out the door.”  

More at: “Sign of inequality: US salaries recover even as jobs haven’t.”

See also “More Than 33 Million Americans Have Filed for Unemployment During Coronavirus Pandemic.” source of the image above.

And to compare the U.S. to other countries, try this nifty interactive visualization.

* Plutarch

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As we examine equity, we might send foundational birthday greetings to Pierre le Pesant, sieur de Boisguilbert; he was born on this date in 1646. A French lawmaker and a Jansenist, he is best remembered as one of the inventors of the notion of an economic market– he championed free trade in opposition to Colbert‘s mercantilist views (which generated government revenues through duties and tariffs).

But he is also noteworthy as the champion of a single tax on each citizen (in lieu of all tariffs, customs, and other trade-related fees) that in some ways presaged Henry George‘s proposals.

source

Never going to happen…

One might express the exceedingly low probability that one might agree (that, say, Adam Sandler is the artistic and comedic rival of Buster Keaton) in a variety of ways.  Here in the U.S., it might be “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over”.  Now, thanks to the good folks at Nautilus, one can answer with the appropriately idiomatic expression of improbability all over the world.  Just click the image above…

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As we substitute hyperbole for hyperventilation, we might recall that it was on this date in 2008 that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, setting off the worst financial crisis since the nineteen-thirties, a seven-hundred-billion-dollar bank bailout, and a painful recession.  On this dark anniversary, John Cassidy asks, “What Has Changed Since Lehman Failed?”  James Kwak answers, “5 Years Later, We’ve Learned Nothing From The Financial Crisis.  And for a really deep dive, leap in here.

Then-Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson

Written by LW

September 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

And that’s the way it is…

source

Arguments rage as to how the U.S. sailed into the economic eddy in which we’re caught, and as to how we should navigate out.  (Your correspondent’s thoughts, FWIW, are littered among the postings in his other blog.)  But the situation is what it is…  a situation that the folks at ProPublica have profiled, current as to data available this month.

Some selections:

– Annual rate at which the GDP grew this year: 1.3 percent between April and June, 0.4 percent between January and March
– Average annual GDP growth from 1998-2007: 3.02 percent
– Total jobs lost since January 2008: 8.7 million
– Total jobs recovered since January 2008: 1.8 million
– Unemployment rate in July 2011: 9.1 percent
– The “natural unemployment rate”: 5 percent
– Months that the unemployment rate has been around 9 percent or more: 28
– Number of unemployed people in July 2011: 13.9 million
– Number of long-term unemployed people in June 2011: 6.3 million, or 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Number of long-term unemployed people in July 2011: 6.2 million, still about 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Years it will take to get back to an unemployment rate of 5 percent: four years if we’re adding jobs at 350,000 per month; 11 years if we’re adding jobs at the 2005 rate of 210,000 per month

More at ProPublica… In an economy the fundamental premise of which is consumption, and in which employment gains demand a GDP growth rate of over 2%, it’s a sobering picture.

As we contemplating re-stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1835 that the New York Sun began a series of six articles detailing the discovery of civilized life on the moon.  Now known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles attributed the “discovery” to Sir John Herschel, the greatest living astronmer of the day.  Herschel was initially amused, wryly noting that his own real observations could never be as exciting.  But ultimately he tired of having to answer questioners who believed the story.  The series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction.

The “ruby amphitheater” on the Moon, per the New York Sun (source)

“…what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned at school.”*

A guest post from Scenarios and Strategy (here, with an almanac entry)…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reminds us that it’s smart to stay in school:

But as Calculated Risk reports, while unemployment among the best educated is still lowest, it’s increased as much in percentage terms for them during this current recession as for any other group.

click to enlarge

One notes that all four groups** were slow to rebound after the 2001 recession– not an encouraging reminder if one is hoping for a brisk employment-led, consumption-fueled recovery this time around.

But in some ways more striking is a difference we might expect, but that hasn’t yet emerged.  Calculated Risk:

I’d expect the unemployment rate to fall faster for workers with higher levels of education, since their skills are more transferable, than for workers with less education. I’d also expect the unemployment rate for workers with lower levels of education to stay elevated longer in this “recovery” because there is no building boom this time. Just a guess and it isn’t happening so far … currently the unemployment rate for the highest educated group is still increasing.

Clearly, from an individual’s point-of-view, it’s still smarter to get more education than less.  But the perturbations of past periods remind us that the gearing between between academic degrees and financial success isn’t always perfectly tight…  Indeed, those with sharply-defined professional credentials in fields– e.g, finance– that are unlikely even in the intermediate term (if ever) to recover their bubble-fueled growth rates, may find their advanced degrees at best unhelpful; at worst, downright prejudicial.

Economic recovery and growth will be driven to some large extent by innovation; that innovation will create new– and new kinds of– jobs.  Looking even just five years out, much less ten, one has to admit that it’s just not possible to predict what these emergent jobs, nor their requirements, will be.  (Consider, e.g., the hottest topic– and job category– in marketing/advertising these days: “social media marketing”…  which wasn’t even a glimmer a decade ago, and was just being born five year ago.)  This is a challenge for those new to the work force, who have to wrangle the product of their schooling and their personal experience into a shape that can fit the entry-level positions they seek.  It is a much bigger challenge for those  mid-career who find themselves needy of making a move:  these more mature folks have not only to learn new fields, they also have to re-direct the considerable momentum of perception and habit that characterized their old– and they have to do those things, usually, in ways that justify salaries way north of entry-level.

All of which underlines for your correspondent the extraordinary value of a liberal arts education.  When one is faced with a “working adulthood” that is one transitional challenge after another, no skill is more valuable than the capacity to adapt.  And no capability is more central to that adaptation than the ability effectively and efficiently to learn.

This is precisely what, at its core, a liberal arts education is about:  learning to learn.

There are many, many other reasons, rooted in personal and societal benefits, to pursue a liberal arts education, and top support a strong foundation of liberal arts in higher education.  But the lessons of the last couple of years– indeed, of the last several decades– suggest that the economic rationale is plenty strong as well…

And besides, it’s fun.

* “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein

** To put these cohorts into perspective, the Census Bureau suggests that, of these folks “25 yrs. and over” (in 2008):
– 13.4% had less than a high school diploma.
– 31.2% were high school graduates, no college.
– 26.0% had some college or associate degree.
– 29.4% had a college degree or higher.

UPDATE:  Reader JK directs our attention to another treatment of the data, in the NY Times. As he suggests, even more dramatic.

As we revisit our course catalogues, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act, the first major legislative step in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal  program.  The sense of urgency was sufficiently high– four days earlier Roosevelt had declared a “Banking Holiday,” closing all of the nation’s banks– that most legislators passed the Act without even reading the single copy that was available for review.  The EBA gave the government authority to shutter insolvent banks; that, coupled with the Federal Reserve’s informal-but-explicit pledge to guarantee the deposits of banks allowed to reopen (de facto deposit insurance), eased the crisis of public confidence:  within two weeks of banks’ re-opening on March 13, Americans had re-deposited over half the cash they’d withdrawn and hoarded through the period of bank failures that marked the first chapter of the Great Depression.  Later that year, the (more considered and embracing) Banking Act of 1933 replaced the EBA, and established such lasting practices and institutions as the FDIC.

Roosevelt signing the Emergency Banking Act

And now, the good news…

Eat Less, Live Longer…

The chart above (courtesy of the OECD, via Swivel) plots relative levels of unemployment against life span…  and suggests that there may be a silver lining in the dark cloud of recession: there’s evidence that life expectancy increases during times of high unemployment.

Specifically, this data shows the relationship between unemployment and life expectancy for the USA between 1960 and 2006. The following series are shown:

* LIGHTER PURPLE: residual life expectancy – the difference between the actual and expected life expectancy, in lay-terms, how much longer people lived than they were expected to
* DARKER PURPLE: unemployment % – the unemployment rate for the year

For another dose of encouragement, see this Freakonomics post… and relaaaaax…

As we denominate our blessings in something other than dollars, we might recall that on this date in 1956, Elvis Presley sang “Don’t Be Cruel” in the first of his three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show

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