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US labour market in dire straits – overheating potential – zero

Payroll employment highly subdued. 408 thousand workers exit the labour force due to lack of jobs. Overheating potential zero. In last month’s assessment – US labour market – things are getting worse again as the virus spreads (January 18, 2021) – I predicted things would get worse given the trajectory of the virus. I have formed a strong view that nations have to deal with the health issue before they can expect the economy to open up again. No nation can ignore a spiralling death rate and avoid some restrictions which damage the economy. The evidence demonstrates that the nations that have largely suppressed the virus are doing the best in economic terms. Last Friday (February 5, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – January 2021 – which is consistent with my prediction. Payroll employment growth has slowed rapidly (only increasing by 49 thousand). But the labour force survey data is a bit difficult to interpret this month due a population benchmarking changes (see below). In terms of the household survey, employment rose by 201 thousand and the labour force was reduced by 408 thousand, meaning that official unemployment fell by 606 thousand and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 points. Taking out the population control effect, the labour force shrank by 200 thousand. While the signals are a little confused, the data is showing there is no strong recovery going on at the moment as the health crisis intensifies. There is an elevated degree of excess capacity. I consider that the US will have to stabilise the health situation before they will be able to sustain any economic recovery. And we can disregard New Keynesian macroeconomists who are suffering from attention deficit problems it seems, and claiming that the economy is close to overheating and cannot absorb the proposed stimulus from the new Administration. The stimulus is actually too little!

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