Behind the Curve

According to rating agency Standard & Poor’s, “there’s a 20% to 25% chance that the U.S. economy will suffer a double-dip recession.”

If the following reports are any guide, I reckon the odds are closer to 100% that we are already in one.

“Older Workers Still Struggling After Great Recession” (Huffington Post)

Three years after the Great Recession officially ended, >boomers are still having a hard time making ends meet and finding jobs, according to a new AARP report.

The report, “Boomers and the Great Recession: Struggling to Recover,” paints a grim picture of post 50s’ mindsets when it comes to their financial well-being. A sample of “current or recent workers” ages 50 to 64 were contacted in October 2010, with a smaller group contacted again in August 2011 to see if boomers felt any differently about their prospects.

“The recession’s effects on older Americans were particularly severe for salary earners in their 50s and early 60s who were counting on more than a few years of additional earnings before retirement and were unlucky enough to lose their jobs.”

An overwhelming number of older workers — who, the study pointed out, have less time than their younger counterparts to recover from job loss or tumbling stock markets and housing values — felt less secure about their finances.

“Older Workers Find Livelihood in Temping” (Reuters)

CHICAGO – Growing numbers of older Americans who have struggled to find work in the wake of the Great Recession are doing something they once considered unthinkable: They are taking temporary jobs.

And this is one of the best job moves they can make, according to Kerry Hannon, author of the new book “AARP Great Jobs for Everyone 50+” (Wiley).

“But I call it independent contracting, not temping,” Hannon says. “It sounds more professional.”

While the 5.9 percent unemployment rate for people over age 55 is considerably lower than the 8.1 percent national average, those out of work have a hard time finding full-time jobs, mostly because they are more expensive to hire.

Unemployed people over 55 were jobless an average of 52.7 weeks in August, compared with just 36.1 weeks for younger workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Temporary work is providing a solution. Just in the past year, the independent workforce has grown to 16.9 million from 16 million, according to research by MBO Partners. Forty percent of those contractors are 50 and older, and 10 percent are over 65, the Herndon, Virginia-based temporary employment company found.

“Americans Continue to Struggle Post-Recession” (USNews.com)

This week, we reported on the Pew Research Center’s findings that the 2000s were a lost decade for the middle class, as a result of declining household income and shrinking net worth over that 10-year period. Now, Pew reports that in the two years since the end of the Great Recession, Americans continue to shed resources.

In fact, the decline of household median income in the last two years matched the drop that occurred during the recession itself, Pew reports. In 2009, when the recession ended, median household income was $52,195, and in 2011 (the most recent year available), it was $50,054, a decline of 4.1 percent. Back in 2007, before the recession, median household income was $54,489. That leads Pew to conclude that “recovery from the Great Recession is bypassing the nation’s households.”

“Great Recession Still Slamming the Middle Class” (NBC News)

The poor stayed poor and the rich got richer, but the middle slipped a few more rungs down the economic ladder.

More than five years after the Great Recession began, the lingering impact of the worst downturn in a half-century continues to deplete the standard of living of middle-class American households.

Median household income, after adjusting for inflation, fell 1.5 percent last year to $50,054, according to the Census Bureau’s annual report on income and poverty issued released Wednesday. The poverty rate, at 15 percent, remained stuck at the highest level since 1993.

“More Americans Added to Food Stamps Than Find Jobs” (The Weekly Standard)

An alarming data point from the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee: More Americans are being added to food stamps than are finding jobs. The data is detailed in this chart, provided by the committee:

Weeklystandardimg

As the chart shows, between April-June 2012 (the most recent three month block for which government data is available), only 200,000 jobs have been created while 265,000 individuals have been added to the food stamp rolls. Additionally, in that time period, 246,000 workers were awarded disability.

“Jobless Rates Increased In More Than Half The Country In August” (Business Insider)

Friday’s unemployment report won’t change that hiring is the foremost topic on everyone’s mind.

In August, unemployment rates increased in 26 states — including 11 swing states in this year’s election — 12 states remained unchanged and 12 states had decreased rates, according to the BLS report.

The numbers showed Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 12.1 percent, and North Dakota has the lowest at 3.0 percent.

“FedEx Total Package Shipments Point to Sharp Decline in GDP” (Pragmatic Capitalism)

Interesting data point here via Bloomberg Economics Brief:

CHART OF THE DAY:  From today’s “Bloomberg Economics Brief,” Bloomberg economist Rich Yamarone releases a chart showing that FedEx’s total U.S. package shipments may indicate a bleak outlook for economic activity. Is a recession in the cards?

Federal Express Cuts 2013 Profit Forecast on Economy, Fuel

FedEx Corp., an economic bellwether as operator of the world’s largest cargo airline, reduced its profit outlook for the second time this year, citing a slower economy. The shipper said its “2012 U.S. GDP growth forecast is 2.2 percent and 1.9 percent for calendar year 2013, which is 0.5 points lower than our fourth-quarter earnings forecast.” “Exports around the world have contracted and the policy choices in Europe, the U.S. and China are having an effect on global trade,” Fred Smith, chief executive officer of the company, said. The company’s ground-delivery business in the U.S., which offers a less expensive alternative to air delivery, posted a sales increase of 7.9 percent to $2.46 billion.

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“WTO Cuts Global Trade Growth Outlook” (WA Today)

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has slashed its 2012 global trade outlook, citing the eurozone debt crisis and weak growth in the US and China as key factors behind the downgrade.

Global trade is now expected to grow 2.5 per cent in 2012 compared with a previous forecast of 3.7 per cent, the WTO said in a statement released in Singapore on Friday.

It also cut its global trade growth outlook for next year to 4.5 per cent from 5.6 per cent.

‘‘The global economy has encountered increasingly strong headwinds since the last WTO Secretariat forecast was issued,’’ the WTO said. ‘‘Output and employment data in the United States have continued to disappoint, while purchasing managers’ indices and industrial production figures in China point to slower growth in the world’s largest exporter.

And finally, we have this:

“Uncertainty Is Adding to U.S. Jobless Rate: Fed Paper” (Reuters)

Uncertainty over the economic outlook has added between one and two percentage points to the U.S. unemployment rate since 2008, according to an estimate from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

The finding, published on Monday in the regional Fed bank’s latest Economic Letter, quantifies for the first time the drag that uncertainty has had on the economy since the Great Recession.

“Had there been no increase in uncertainty in the past four years, the unemployment rate would have been closer to 6 percent or 7 percent than to the 8 percent to 9 percent actually registered,” wrote San Francisco Fed research advisors Sylvain Leduc and Zheng Liu.

The Fed sent short-term interest rates to zero in December 2008 to counter the deep recession, and bought trillions of dollars of bonds to further lower long-term interest rates.

Hmmm. Perhaps that last paragraph tells us all we need to know about where much of the uncertainty is coming from: the Fed itself.

In this weekend’s podcast, I will explore the success — or lack thereof — of Bernanke & Co.’s pointless machinations and explain why I think “The Fed’s Days Are Numbered.”