The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported today that gross domestic product (GDP)—the widest measure of overall economic activity—grew at a 2.8 percent (annualized) rate in the third quarter of 2013. This was a slight increase relative to the second quarter’s 2.5 percent growth rate.
However, there is little reason to celebrate today’s GDP numbers. For one, they remain disappointingly weak for an economy with so much productive slack. Further, growth in final demand—GDP stripped of the contribution of volatile inventory investments—grew at just a 2.0 percent rate in the third quarter. This arguably better indicator of underlying economic strength indicates that growth in the second quarter is essentially on the same disappointing trend that has characterized most of the recovery phase since the official end of the Great Recession. Additional evidence that third quarter growth was insufficient to soak up the economy’s productive slack is the continuing very low rates of core inflation measures. All in all, this is a status quo GDP report, and it clearly remains the case that the economy needs further support from both fiscal and monetary policy to generate growth sufficient to spur real improvement in the U.S. labor market.
The jobs report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the labor market gained 204,000 jobs in October, along with an upward revision of 60,000 to prior months’ data, bringing the average growth rate of the last year to 194,000. There appears to be no discernible impact on the payroll numbers of the partial government shutdown in October; in the payroll survey federal employees on furlough during the partial government shutdown were still considered employed. Importantly, the labor force participation rate dropped 0.4 percentage points to its lowest point of the downturn, 62.8%. The unemployment rate was little changed in October, ticking up slightly to 7.3%. The partial government shutdown may have played a role in the unemployment numbers, since federal employees on furlough during the partial government shutdown should have been counted as unemployed on temporary layoff in the household survey.
Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.
The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…
So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.
The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…