The U.S. trade deficit for all of 2022 rose 12.2% to $948.1 billion, the widest gap on record, as the U.S. continued to depend heavily on imports from other countries to meet domestic demand. Exports also rose last year as global demand for U.S.-made products picked up. A U.S. dollar rally last year drove up the cost of U.S. goods and helped widen the annual deficit. A wider trade deficit is consistent with a U.S. economy growing faster than other parts of the world, as people with higher incomes in the U.S. buy more imported goods.
The persistence of the pandemic distortions makes assessing broad structural shifts – notably with respect to China – difficult. There is no doubt that measured imported (on the US side) have shifted toward other Asian trade partners. There is no doubt that the increase in imports from Asia (setting China aside) is actually pretty broad based. Vietnam has outperformed but it is far from alone. On the other hand I don‘t think anyone would have forecast back in early 2019 that the intensification of Trump‘s tariffs and a global pandemic would leave US trade with China basically unchanged (in aggregate). So while there is no doubt that the post-pandemic surge in US goods demand (which is now fading) led to a large increase US demand for a host of imports, I at least am not convinced that there has (yet) been a significant shift away from the Chinese supply chain. And I do expect the traditional drives of US trade — including the (still) strong dollar — to reassert themselves in 2023.
We found that the internet led more firms to recruit online. It further caused a 9% decline in the duration of posted vacancies and 13% fewer unsuccessful hiring attempts. Next, we showed that the expansion increased job finding rates by 2.4% and starting wages by 6% among the unemployed. However, we found no evidence of changes in job-to-job mobility or wage growth for the employed. Through the lens of the calibrated model, we found that search technology is the primary mechanism behind the quasi-experimental evidence. Our calculations indicated that the broadband internet expansion may have caused a 14% decline in the steady-state unemployment rate. Our paper sheds light on two recent macroeconomic trends. First, the falling rates of worker mobility in the US have fueled a concern about the causes and consequences of declining labor market mobility. Our results suggest that online job search and recruitment may have improved match quality by providing more information about potential jobs and better tools to screen potential candidates. In turn, this improvement may have reduced the need to switch employers in search for a better match – consistent with a more optimistic view of recent trends in job mobility. Second, our evidence helps explain the inward shift in the Beveridge curve observed in Norway and in other countries from the 1990s to the early 2000s. Our evidence suggests that without the near-universal internet adoption rates, the unemployment rate after the Great Recession would have reached even higher levels.
Early in the pandemic, Americans were socking away money at unprecedented rates. In 2020, they collectively saved 16.8% of their disposable income, well above the 8.8% they saved in 2019. But in 2022, the saving rate fell to 3.3%. Americans have spent down about 35% of the extra savings they accumulated during the pandemic as of mid-January, according to an estimate from Goldman Sachs. By the end of the year, the company forecasts that they will have exhausted roughly 65% of that money. “At the exact same moment you lost the government transfer payments, you got hit with very high inflation, which made your real spending power lower,” said David Mericle, Goldman Sachs’s chief U.S. economist.“ You shouldn’t need to tap your wealth as much, hopefully, in 2023 as you needed to in 2022 in order to avoid a big decline in your real consumption level,” he said. His team at Goldman Sachs estimates that the monthly saving rate will rise modestly by the end of the year, to about 4.5%.
Measures of US broad money are now actually falling. In December 2022, for example, US M2 was 2.5 per cent below its peak in March. Data on broader measures provided by the Center for Financial Stability show the same picture. This suggests that inflation might fall faster than expected. It is even possible that if the aim is only to stabilize inflation rather than make the price level fall back, policy is too tight. Yet there still seems to be a monetary overhang. Inflation might also prove stickier downwards than hoped. Whatever happens, do not repeat what happened in the 1970s: get inflation down and then keep it down.
We examined the obituaries published over the past four years by the state-backed Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The academies’ members, who are drawn from research institutions across the country, help shape national policy and steer research priorities. The engineering academy currently has about 900 members, and the science academy about 800, according to their websites. The obituaries did not specify the scholars’ causes of death beyond “illness,” and the academies did not answer requests for more specifics. But the spike late last year coincided with the coronavirus’s rapid spread across the country. From 2019 to 2021, the Harbin Institute of Technology, one of the top engineering schools in the world, had published between one and three obituaries for professors and staff members in those months. Between December and last month, it announced 29 deaths.
The figure above shows cognitive ability levels expressed with annual wage on the horizontal axis. Cognitive ability plateaus at high levels of occupational success. Precisely in the part of the wage distribution where cognitive ability can make the biggest difference, its right tail, cognitive ability ceases to play any role. Cognitive ability plateaus around €60,000 [$64,200] at under a standard deviation above the mean. There are no significant differences in ability between the three top income percentiles, despite there being 594 cases in each percentile bin and despite those in the 100th percentile earning more than double the wage of those in the 98th percentile. Past a certain wage threshold, having a higher wage is no longer telling of cognitive ability. The average score individuals in the top percentile achieved as adolescents on the cognitive-ability test is 7.15 ± 0.11 (95% confidence interval). On a stanine scale this amounts to less than a standard deviation (+0.86) above average.
Household net worth expanded by USD34 trillion from end-2019 through end-2021, an increase of >150% of end-2019 GDP in only 2 years. This wealth increase was mainly due to the increase in financial and non-financial assets (housing). The chart below shows the change in the value of outstanding assets held by households for select items from end-2019. Currency and deposits held by households began the sharp increase in the first quarter of 2020, during the initial lockdowns, and increased by about USD4½ trillion in total. The increase in equity and real estate assets, mainly due to valuation adjustments, followed—and in value terms was a much larger influence on household net worth. At its peak, equity and investment fund shares, which fell in value by USD6 trillion by end-March 2020, increased nearly USD18 trillion by end-2021 on end-2019, or USD24 trillion peak-to-trough. The declines experienced last year during the interest rate normalization have weighed on such wealth since, but the levels remained above pre-pandemic norms. Real estate assets continued to increase in value still in 2022Q3, though at a diminishing pace as housing feels the strain of higher rates. Still, nearly USD13 trillion was added to household wealth through real estate since end-2019. Put another way, at its peak, every additional USD1 trillion in monetary wealth during the pandemic came to be reflected in roughly USD6 trillion in non-monetary wealth, mainly equities and housing.
Middle-income earners, not the poorest, appear to have borne the brunt of America’s current bout of inflation. Research by Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics has yielded a distinctive shape—an inverted-U curve—that illustrates the distributional effects of inflation in America from mid-2020 to mid-2022. For the lowest earners, inflation was about 13.5%. For those in the middle of the spectrum, inflation was closer to 15.5%. The wealthiest faced inflation of about 14%. Since 2020 nominal wages have increased at an average annual rate of about 4.2% for Americans as a whole. The lowest-earning quartile, however, has seen the biggest gains, with their wages up by 5.3% on average during the same period.
Value-added per employee is a measure of labor productivity. In America’s tradable sector, it has risen steadily over the last two decades in both manufacturing and services, reaching roughly $185,000 (in chained 2012 dollars) in 2021. Over the same period, productivity growth in this sector averaged nearly 3%. The non-tradable economy [net government] is just 0.57% per annum over the last 20 years. This reflects below-average productivity levels and, in most cases, low-to-moderate productivity growth in the large-employment sectors. There was not always a large gap between the tradable and non-tradable sectors. On the contrary, as the chart shows, labor productivity was about $100,000 across the economy in 1998. But by 2021, after more than two decades of steady divergence, per-employee value-added in the tradable sector was nearly double the level in the non-tradable sector.
Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic. But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.
In February last year, four groups of high-altitude balloons were detected over northern Taiwan, home to most of the country’s population and some of its most important air defense sites. The same month, the US Air Force scrambled fighters to intercept an unmanned balloon off Kauai, a Hawaiian island that has a key missile-testing range. The PLA’s balloons have been doing much more than spy on whatever country they are flying over. According to a military official from another Asian country, one focus area in the Chinese military’s balloon flights in recent years is to collect data that can enhance the accuracy of over-the-horizon and other radar systems used for targeting in wartime. Military analysts said data points such as atmospheric density would help the PLA develop software tools known as advanced refractive effects prediction systems, which are critical for advanced radars that aid missile, air, and naval operations.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitions toward Taiwan should not be underestimated, despite him likely being sobered by the performance of Russia’s military in Ukraine. Burns said that the United States knew “as a matter of intelligence” that Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an invasion of self-governed Taiwan by 2027. “Now, that does not mean that he’s decided to conduct an invasion in 2027, or any other year, but it’s a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition,” Burns told an event at Georgetown University in Washington.
We study the market for CEOs among larger U.S. companies (enterprise value greater than $1 billion) purchased by private equity firms between 2010 and 2016. More than 70% of those companies hire new CEOs. Of these, more than 75% are external hires with 67% being complete outsiders. These results are strikingly different from studies that look at public companies, who find that 72% of new CEOs are internal promotions while 80% are internal promotions, former executives, or board members. The most recent experience of 70% of the outside CEOs was at a public company with 32% at an S&P 500 company. Almost 50% of the external hires have some previous experience at an S&P 500 company. The median and average buyout in our sample earned roughly 2.5 times on its equity investment. This is interesting given that the public-to-private deals in our sample were not particularly poor performers before they were bought. Because private equity investors are paid strongly for performance (through their carried interest or profit share of 20% on most funds), private equity investors have strong incentives not to provide rents to their CEOs. The pay of CEOs in private-equity funded companies, therefore, should be relatively rent-free. Using the performance of the buyouts and survey evidence on buyout equity incentives, we estimate the compensation buyout CEOs earn and find that the magnitude is much higher than that for similar-sized public companies and comparable to or slightly lower than that of S&P 500 CEOs. The results that top executives move from public companies to private equity funded companies at competitive compensation levels suggest that the broader market for CEOs is quite active and that, at least for private equity-funded companies, firm-specific human capital is relatively unimportant.
U.S. hiring accelerated sharply to 517,000 jobs in January and the unemployment fell to 3.4%, the lowest rate in more than 53 years, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings grew 4.4% in January from a year earlier, down from a revised 4.8% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Wage increases have been gradually slowing, suggesting employers are finding it easier to recruit new workers.
If excessive price increases were “transitory” on the way up, then they are also “transitory” on the way down. Monthly data suggest that the price impact of normalization in the production, distribution, and demand for manufactured goods may already have peaked. Fed officials have repeatedly said that they are now focusing on PCE services prices excluding energy and housing. This is a relatively broad swathe of the economy that should be relatively—although not completely—shielded from idiosyncratic forces and should therefore represent underlying inflationary conditions.
Our income and estate tax system is broken. It has high statutory rates with a Swiss cheese of exemptions, immense cost, unfairness, and distortion. A consumption tax, with none of the absurd complexity of our current taxes, is the answer. It funds the government with the least economic distortion. A consumption tax need not be regressive. It’s easy enough to exempt the first few thousand dollars of consumption or add to the rebate. Taxes overall must finance what the government spends. Collecting it in one tax rather than lots of smaller taxes doesn’t change the overall rate. It’s better for voters to see how much the government takes.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken has canceled his weekend visit to China after the Pentagon said it discovered a Chinese spy balloon that has been flying over sensitive nuclear missile sites in the western state of Montana. China rejected suggestions that it was a spy balloon, saying it is rather a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that deviated from its planned course because of winds and “limited self-steering capability” “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” it said in an unusual statement. American officials said China had previously flown spy balloons over the country but that this one spent more time overhead. Canada separately said it was monitoring a “potential second incident” without providing any details. Canada’s foreign ministry said it had summoned China’s ambassador to Ottawa to protest against the balloon and that it would “continue to vigorously express our position to Chinese officials through multiple channels.”
For the first time, the PLA has officially revealed the performance of its advanced anti-ship hypersonic missile, sending a warning to the US amid high tensions in the Taiwan Strait, Chinese analysts said. China’s YJ-21, or Eagle Strike-21, has a terminal speed of Mach 10, cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile weapons system in the world, and can launch lethal strikes toward enemy ships, according to an article posted by the official Weibo account of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.
Deficit-financed fiscal transfers generate excess savings. One person’s spending is another person’s income. As we show, taking this fact into account implies that excess savings from debt-financed transfers have much longer-lasting effects than a naive calculation would suggest. In a closed economy, unless the government pays down the debt used to finance the transfers, excess savings do not go away as households spend them down. Instead, the effect of excess savings on aggregate demand slowly dissipates as they “trickle up” the wealth distribution to agents with lower MPCs. Tight monetary policy speeds up this process, but this effect is likely to be quantitatively modest. The partial equilibrium scenario summarizes the conventional wisdom according to which the effect of excess savings will dissipate in a few quarters. By contrast, our benchmark scenario suggests that these effects will stick around for roughly 5 years.
The Covid health emergency, like a war, enabled the government to vastly expand its power and spending. Now that the “war” is over, government resists receding to its pre-pandemic level. The debt-limit amendment should not only claw back unspent funds from the $6 trillion pandemic spending orgy, which would save $255 billion in 2023-24 alone. By repeatedly extending the pandemic emergency every 90 days, the Biden administration has expanded the number of households eligible for food stamps and dramatically increased average benefits, more than doubling food-stamp spending. The administration has used the Covid emergency to add 20 million people to the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program rolls, sending costs up by $135 billion. The administrative deadline for the moratorium on student-debt payments has been extended eight times, at a cost approaching $275 billion.
Since 2003 John Van Reenen and Nicholas Bloom have been developing and running the World Management Survey (WMS). To date, the WMS has carried out over 20,000 interviews with medium-sized firms, hospitals, and schools in 35 countries, some rich economies, and others emerging markets. The results allow for a ranking of countries based on differences in their firms’ management practices. Such differences are not just large; they also persist across borders. Among the WMS’s findings is the fact that companies’ offices abroad tend to be managed as well as those in their home country, meaning that the London branch of an American business, say, will typically be managed to the same standard as its offices in New York or Chicago. (Multinationals achieve higher management scores than domestic firms wherever they locate.)
The “Slowbalization” that followed the global financial crisis (2008–10) has been characterized by a slower expansion of cross-border lending and trade. Globalization has plateaued. While fragmentation may entail strategic advantages for some countries in selected cases, it is very likely to involve significant economic costs in the aggregate. The costs would include higher import prices, segmented markets, diminished access to technology and to both skilled and unskilled labor, and ultimately reduced productivity which may result in lower living standards. GEF is likely to complicate multilateral cooperation in critical areas such as climate change mitigation and pandemic preparedness.
Latest data from PIIE’s semiannual tracker, “China’s state vs. private company tracker: Which sector dominates?”—which tracks market value of China’s top 100 listed companies (ranked by market value)—show a continued decline of the share of the private sector, from 44.5 percent at mid-2022 to 42.8 percent at year-end, continuing the downward trend of the previous two half-year periods from the 55.4 percent peak observed in mid-2021. Still, the private sector share remains higher than it was throughout the 2010s, when it rose dramatically from 8 percent at end-2010 to 36 percent at end-2019.
In real terms, the National index is 3.6% below the recent peak, and the Composite 20 index is 5.2% below the recent peak in 2022. In real terms, house prices are still above the bubble peak levels. There is an upward slope to real house prices, and it has been about 17 years since the previous peak. Affordability improved slightly in November as both mortgage rates and house prices declined. In October, houses were the least “affordable” since 1982 when 30-year mortgage rates were over 14%.
Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles told the FT that the partners were “close to an announcement” following an 18-month planning phase to determine how and where to build the boats and what US technology and information would be required. But the planning has been complicated by longstanding US curbs on technology and information sharing, which apply to Australia and the UK even though the countries are members of the Washington-led Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that also includes Canada and New Zealand. Two crucial decisions will be the choice of submarine design and where the submarines will be built, given concerns that America’s shipyards do not have the capacity to take on more work.
Why have US aggregate profit rates increased while financial market rates decreased since 1980? We propose a mismatch hypothesis: Profit rates in the national accounts track the return on capital for all firms, while financial market rates track the cost of capital for public firms only. We show public-firm profit rates halved since 1980, matching trends in financial markets and suggesting low market power. Mechanically, this residual private capital return series shows private capital returns had to have increased substantially to account for this secular break between aggregate and public firm profitability. The degree of this shift is significant: Private firms’ profit rates are on average 10% higher than public firms’ in the post-2000 period. Nonfinancial domestic private-firm profit rates doubled, suggesting high market power or risk. Size and sector differences cannot explain the divergence, though intangible-intensity might. Our results indicate substantial biases in extrapolating public-firm trends to the aggregate economy.
Once the public adjusts its expectations to the high trend inflation, the economy returns to the natural rate. This explains why the economy today is more overheated than before the Volcker disinflation. By the early 1980s, the public had adjusted to a long period of high inflation and unemployment had returned close to its natural rate. Each year, both wages and prices rose rapidly—but the economy was not in “disequilibrium”. In contrast, today’s economy has still not adjusted to the very fast NGDP growth of 2022. Thus, the labor market is more overheated than in early 1981, despite much less inflation. I still believe that some pain will be imposed on the labor market in bringing inflation down, but perhaps something closer to 4% or 5% unemployment, not the double-digit unemployment of late 1982.
Over the last year aggregate real consumption growth has moderated, but real private fixed investment declined substantially. Housing was the big casualty with single-family residential investment falling to an 8-year low amidst rapid increases in mortgage rates, but fixed investment in nonresidential structures also sank while investment in equipment and R&D stagnated. Higher interest rates, macroeconomic uncertainty, global growth drags, and weakening US real consumption have hurt domestic investment the most—a worrying sign given how critical fixed investments are to increasing long-run economic capacity. Fixed investment is a key economic signal and an important growth indicator, but it is unfortunately not a be-all-end-all recession indicator.
Moving to the USA raises citations to math publications four-fold, or 2.5-fold if you restrict attention to people who become a math academic at home or abroad. Comparing New Zealander migrants who return or stay abroad – the ones who stay abroad get up to four times as many citations as those who return. PhD students who stay in the USA get 4-6 times as many citations to their work as their peers in the same program who end up moving back to a country with GDP per capita outside the top 25%. That’s a pretty consistently large effect. And we get similar kinds of results when we look at other proxies for scientific achievement, whether it’s counting publications, patents, or becoming an invited speaker to the International Congress of Mathematicians. A model of the innovation/immigration/trade economy between the US and EU…implies if the USA doubled the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 130,000, it would raise the real GDP per capita growth rate in each region by 9% in the long run.
After a decline to $28.2 billion in 2020 during the pandemic, foreign direct investment in Mexico rose to $31.4 billion in 2021 and reached $32.1 billion during the first nine months of 2022, the most for the period since 2013. Of that amount, around $11.6 billion was in manufacturing, similar to 2021 levels. The Mexican government says more than 400 companies currently have shown interest in moving production from Asia to Mexico. “This is an enormous opportunity for Mexico, one that only happens once in a generation,” said Carlos Capistrán, chief economist for Mexico and Canada at Bank of America. “It’s starting to happen, but we don’t know if it will be a home run or just a hit.”
The US is launching a series of ambitious technology, space and defense initiatives with India, in an effort designed to counter China in the Indo-Pacific and wean New Delhi off its reliance on Russia for weapons. The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies marks the latest move by US President Joe Biden to work more closely with allies and partners to counter China. The two countries unveiled cooperation in a number of areas, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless networks and semiconductors. They also created a mechanism to facilitate joint weapons production.
College-educated whites, especially those with higher incomes, are not clear coalitional partners for anyone — they don’t favor economic policies, such as increasing housing supply or even higher taxes on the rich, that are beneficial to the working class, of any race. And many college-educated whites are motivated by social issues that are also not largely supported by the working class, of any race. It’s not clear that, with their current ideological positions, socially liberal and economically centrist or rightist college-educated whites are natural coalition partners with anybody but themselves. My sense is that much of the college-educated liberal political rhetoric is focused on social signaling to satisfy their own psychological needs and improve their social standing with other college-educated liberals, rather than policies that would actually reduce racial gaps in economic well-being, civil rights protections, and other quality of life issues.
Good news for prospects for sustained lower inflation from the latest Employment Cost Index (ECI) data. But, the growth in Q4 was still higher than any quarter in the previous cycle. So still not likely to be compatible with 2% inflation and probably not even 3% inflation. In terms of the well-being of the average worker, ECI wages are 2% below their pre-COVID peak and 5% below their pre-COVID trend. This is an average–wages up more for lower-wage workers and down more for higher-wage workers. Real wages are lower today than they were in December 2019 for every industry except retail trade and leisure and hospitality. And they are below trend in every industry. If the labor market stays in similar shape (measured in terms of the unemployment rate, job openings and the quits rate) then I would expect inflation to be 3.5% and likely drifting up from that–nothing says this need to continue its monotonic decline.
Bringing in the changes in both components, debt, and equity, into the assessment, we computed the costs of capital for US and global companies in US dollar terms. The cost of capital for a median US (global) company rose from 5.77% (6.33%) at the start of 2022 to 9.63% (10.60%) at the start of 2023. To understand the implications of a rising cost of capital, it is worth remembering that the cost of capital is the Swiss Army knife of corporate finance, affecting almost every decision within a business.
Americans liquidated more than $1Tof “excess” savings in 2022, eliminating more than half of the surplus accumulated since the pandemic began. If the current pace continues, the entire stock will vanish by the end of this year. The great dissaving of 2022 can be explained by the (relative) misfortunes afflicting high earners as society normalized. First, dividend and interest income were unusually weak. U.S. post-tax corporate profits in 2022 were roughly 40% higher than in 2019, but dividend payments to shareholders were up just 14% because companies opted for buybacks. Meanwhile, the combination of soaring asset values and the relative preference for buybacks has meant that wealthy Americans owed substantial taxes in 2022 based on 2021 capital gains. Personal income tax payments, which include capital gains, are currently running 26% above what would be expected based on the 2018-2019 trend. Employee pay is 2% above trend while payroll tax receipts are about 0.5% above trend.
Almost all recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence globally have come from large companies, in large part because they have the computing power. Amazon, whose AI powers its Alexa voice assistant, and Meta, which made waves recently when one of its models beat human players at “Diplomacy,” a strategy board game, respectively produce two-thirds and four-fifths as much AI research as Stanford University, a bastion of computer-science eggheads. Alphabet and Microsoft churn out considerably more, and that is not including DeepMind, Google Research’s sister lab which the parent company acquired in 2014, and the Microsoft-affiliated OpenAI.
Annual gold demand increased 18 per cent last year to 4,741 tonnes, the largest amount since 2011, driven by a 55-year high in central bank purchases, according to the World Gold Council, an industry-backed group. Central bank purchases of gold hit 417 tonnes in the final three months of the year, roughly 12 times higher than the same quarter a year ago. It took the annual total to more than double of the previous year at 1,136 tonnes. Only about a quarter of the fourth-quarter central bank purchases were reported to the IMF. Reported purchases in 2022 were led by Turkey taking in almost 400 tonnes, China, which reported buying 62 tonnes in November and December, and Middle Eastern nations.
Is that ubiquitous smell in America’s great cities the smell of sensible liberal drug policy? Or is it the smell of America’s work ethic going up in smoke? If the work ethic is the product of cultural change, it can be destroyed by cultural change. America is the world’s leading example of the power of the work ethic. “The US work ethic is really strong and healthy,” Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute quipped to me in an interview, “except where it isn’t.” The post-work revolution was led by men without college degrees. Eberstadt produces some astonishing statistics on the number of prime-age men (25 to 64) who have fallen out of the labor market. More than 11% of these men — some seven million souls — are neither working nor looking for a job. Barely half of native-born prime-age men with no high school degree are in the job market. The “not in labor force” number has gone up by a percentage point every seven years since 1965 regardless of the state of the economy or the number of job vacancies.
The U.S. military is poised to secure expanded access to key bases in the Philippines. While negotiations are still ongoing, an announcement is expected as soon as this week when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets in Manila with his counterpart and then with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The expansion involves access to Philippine military bases, likely including two on the northern island of Luzon — which, analysts said, could give U.S. forces a strategic position from which to mount operations in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea.
A group of astronomers poring over data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has glimpsed light from ionized helium in a distant galaxy, which could indicate the presence of the universe’s very first generation of stars. These long-sought, inaptly named “Population III” stars would have been very large balls of hydrogen and helium sculpted from the universe’s primordial gas. Theorists started imagining these first fireballs in the 1970s, hypothesizing that, after short lifetimes, they exploded as supernovas, forging heavier elements and spewing them into the cosmos. Xin Wang, an astronomer at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and his colleagues think they’ve found them. “It’s really surreal,” Wang said. Confirmation is still needed; the team’s paper, posted on the preprint server arxiv.org on December 8, is awaiting peer review at Nature.
Retail purchases have fallen in three of the past four months. Spending on services, including rent, haircuts, and the bulk of bills, was flat in December, after adjusting for inflation, the worst monthly reading in nearly a year. The saving rate has fallen to roughly 3% of monthly income, from more than 30% at the start of lockdowns. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, the rate was 8.8%. Credit-card balances were up 15% on the year in the third quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the largest increase in more than two decades.
U.S. commuting zones (CZs) that were more exposed to the China trade shock had substantially larger net reductions in the population of foreign-born workers but not in the population of native-born workers. The small and insignificant native-born responses have narrow confidence intervals, which is suggestive of modest heterogeneity in native-born adjustment across places. For foreign-born workers, comparing CZs at the 75th versus 25th percentiles of exposure to the trade shock, the more exposed CZ would have seen 1.7 and 2.3 percentage-point larger [10 yr] reductions, respectively, in the foreign-born population with a high school education or less and in the foreign-born population with some college education or more. Within trade-exposed CZs, foreign-born and native-born workers had comparably sized reductions in employment-population ratios. These trade-induced reductions in employment rates were larger in CZ initial foreign-born population shares were above (relative to below) the nation median. At the time of the surge in import competition from China, foreign-born workers were in the wrong locations to contribute much to regional changes in labor supply.
The strength of the link between money growth and inflation depends on the inflation regime: it is one-to-one when inflation is high and virtually non-existent when it is low. Panel A illustrates the long-run relationship between inflation and “excess money growth” – the difference between money growth and real GDP growth. The graph displays the relationship between these two variables based on non-overlapping 10-year averages. When the observations from all countries are pooled, the standard relationship emerges clearly: there is a precisely estimated one-to-one link between excess money growth and inflation. But, as shown in panel B, if we split the observations into high- and low-inflation ones using different 10-year average inflation rate thresholds, we see that this relationship exists only when inflation is relatively high. As expected, the difference narrows noticeably as the inflation threshold increases.
2022 was the first year when investment in the energy transition equaled global investment in fossil fuels, according to the latest data released from clean energy research group BloombergNEF. The money flowing into the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments of oil and gas, and into fossil fuel-fired power generation without emissions reduction technology, was $1.1 trillion last year. Likewise, annual investment in renewable energy, electrified transport and heat, energy storage and other technologies reached $1.1 trillion.
Changing trade patterns have made the global flow of raw materials less efficient and more costly to finance and are also likely to push up the price of commodities for consumers, according to a new study by consultancy McKinsey. “Since the end of 2020, we have seen a doubling of the working capital requirements in the commodity trading sector,” said Roland Rechtsteiner, McKinsey partner and lead author of the report. The McKinsey report predicts average shipping times will increase by 8%, energy prices will rise three-fold, and interest costs will rise seven-fold, between the end of 2020 and 2024, and that working capital requirements for commodity trading globally will increase between $300bn and $500bn as a result.
General Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command, said the two military powers were likely to end up at war because of a series of circumstances that would embolden Chinese president Xi Jinping. “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan wrote in a private memo to his top commanders. As head of Air Mobility Command, Minihan oversees air-related logistics across the US military. The four-star general previously served as deputy head of Indo-Pacific Command, which would be directly responsible for commanding US forces in any conflict with China.
In December, the percentage of subprime auto borrowers who were at least 60 days late on their bills rose to 5.67%, up from a seven-year low of 2.58% in April 2021, according to Fitch Ratings. That compares to 5.04% in January 2009, the peak during the Great Recession. Higher interest rates are making it even more difficult to make the monthly payments. The average new auto loan rate was 8.02% in December, up from 5.15% a year earlier, according to Cox Automotive. The rate can be much higher for subprime borrowers. While the number of vehicle repossessions is rising, it’s still below pre-pandemic levels. At Manheim, an auto auction company, the number of repossessed cars increased 11% in 2022 compared to the prior year, but that was still down 26% from 2019.
My expectation is residential investment will decline further in 2023, although the largest percentage decline was in 2022. If we look at the most comparable period to the current cycle, the 1978 to 1982 period, we see that real house prices bottomed several years after activity bottomed. Activity bottomed in 1981 or early 1982, but house prices didn’t return to the previous peak (inflation adjusted) until mid-1986. The timing and extent of nominal price declines is difficult to predict. I’ve guessed that we will see 10%+ in nominal price declines nationally. We’ve already seen national price declines of 2.4% seasonally adjusted (Case-Shiller National Index) as sellers appear to be willing to give back some of the extraordinary gains over the last two years (not completely “sticky”). The bottom line is that there will be two bottoms for housing: one for activity and the other for prices. Existing home sales may have already bottomed, but we will see further declines in residential investment. Prices – especially in real terms – will be under pressure for some time.
The states that rely on water from the shrinking Colorado River are unlikely to agree to voluntarily make deep reductions in their water use which would force the federal government to impose cuts for the first time in the water supply for 40 million Americans. The Colorado River Compact apportioned the water among two groups of states. The so-called upper basin states would get 7.5 million acre-feet a year. The lower basin got a total of 8.5 million acre-feet. A later treaty guaranteed Mexico, where the river reaches the sea, 1.5 million acre-feet. The premise that the river’s flow would average 17.5 million acre-feet each year turned out to be faulty. Over the past century, the river’s actual flow has averaged less than 15 million acre-feet each year. From 2000 through 2022, the river’s annual flow averaged just over 12 million acre-feet; in each of the past three years, the total flow was less than 10 million.
Japan and the Netherlands are poised to join the US in limiting China’s access to advanced semiconductor machinery. The Netherlands will expand restrictions on ASML Holding NV, which will prevent it from selling at least some of its so-called deep ultraviolet lithography machines, crucial to making some types of advanced chips and without which attempts to set up production lines may be impossible. Japan will set similar limits on Nikon Corp.
This week, an estimated 200mn unmarried Chinese returned home to celebrate the lunar new year greeted by relatives brimming with questions about when they plan to get married and start a family. The annual inquisition is such a predictable part of life for young Chinese that social media channels are filled with viral how-to guides coaching people on how to bat away pushy parents. “Everyone has their own technique,” said a Beijing teacher in her late 20s, who has been keeping her boyfriend a secret from her family for years as a pre-emptive strategy against demands for marriage. Young people who do get married are doing so later, while the total pool of China’s marriageable youth continues to shrink annually. The number of women of childbearing age, defined as those between 15 and 49 years old, fell by more than 4mn last year.
There are several plausible policy goals. Conservatives could seek to end the Covid-emergency designation and end all pandemic-related emergency spending (a chance for Democrats to declare victory over the pandemic, too). Several Democrats have also expressed openness to the TRUST Act, which would create a congressional commission to extend Social Security and Medicare solvency. Conservatives could seek to freeze discretionary spending for the year (which may mean trimming domestic programs to accommodate any defense or veterans’ health hikes). If progressives want to eliminate the debt limit, they can make a deal to provide other tools to address unrestrained mandatory spending, such as statutory fiscal targets.
Overall GDP is basically at CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast. The big story for economic growth was the consistent strength of consumer spending, which is more than two-thirds of the economy. It has been consistently running well ahead of CBO’s pre-pandemic forecast. Likely continued impact of huge fiscal support in 2020 and 2021. The countervailing story is the collapse of residential investment. It has fallen for 7 straight quarters, fell 19.3% over the last four quarters, with a decline of 26.7% (annual rate) in Q4. Biggest since the financial crisis. And the third story is that over the pandemic recovery the huge increase in US demand was partly accommodated by rising imports and production shifted from exports to domestic consumption. But the large increase in the trade deficit has been narrowing.
An ageing population, and the dependency it creates, will hamper supply and stoke inflation. Mikael Juselius and Elod Takats of BIS’s core insight: “The young and the old are inflationary, while the working-age cohort is disinflationary.” That is, prime-age workers create more supply than demand, while their elders and juniors do just the opposite.
Before the pandemic, China faced capital flight of about $150 billion annually from people going overseas, but the amount is likely to be higher in 2023 since they haven’t been able to travel for the last three years, according to Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis SA. Her calculation — worked out by looking at unexplained differentials in global tourism data — is an estimate of funds left abroad permanently by Chinese nationals who travel. About 10,800 rich Chinese migrated in 2022, the most since 2019 according to New World Wealth, a global data intelligence partner of investment migration consultant Henley & Partners. According to one private banker, wealthy individuals told him the cost of moving money offshore has risen to 12 cents on the dollar late last year from 1 cent in the years before the pandemic, as the government clamped down on money transfers.
The suburbs account for just over a third of the decline in the Democratic margin of victory between 2018 and 2022. The people of New York City, through a combination of defection and abstention, account for most of the rest. Narrowing our focus to only those precincts where at least three-quarters of residents share the same racial identity – which I’ll refer to as racial enclaves – the trends are even more pronounced. Between 2018 and 2022, Hispanic and Asian enclaves swung fifty-eight and fifty-two points toward the GOP, respectively. Their turn to the right was far more decisive than that of white enclaves, which swung thirty-two points toward the GOP. For their part, black enclaves moved just eight points to the right over the same period. Between 2014 and 2022, the swings were as follows: six points in black enclaves, forty-two points in white enclaves, fifty-six points in Hispanic enclaves, and fifty-eight points in Asian enclaves. Now that’s what I call a revolt.
I identify the effects of monetary policy by exploiting the timing of high-frequency observations of mortgage rate locks around unanticipated monetary policy shocks conveyed in Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcements. I find that a contractionary policy shock which increases mortgage rates by 1 percentage point would reduce the share of home purchase loans going to low- and moderate-income (LMI) borrowers by 2.1 percentage points (or 7.5%) in the weeks following the announcement. The share going to low-income borrowers alone would fall by 1.1 percentage points (16%). While low-wealth households may not experience an immediate appreciation of financial assets when the stance of monetary policy is expansionary, that stance can allow them to get their foot in the door of homeownership.
Americans filed nearly 1.7 million applications to start new likely employer businesses in 2022. These applications—labeled “high propensity applications” by the Census Bureau—make up a subset of total business applications, capturing those with a higher likelihood of hiring employees in the future based on their industry or other information in the filing. Over the course of the year, there were 359,000 more filings from likely employers in 2022 than in 2019—a 27.8 percent increase over the pre-pandemic baseline. While 2022’s count was 6.5 percent lower than 2021’s, it still ranked as the second-largest haul of the series. These applications are particularly noteworthy because they represent the businesses most likely to lead to lasting job growth and innovation, if and when they become operational.
My preferred measure — because it avoids some distortions associated with recessions — is debt as a percentage of potential G.D.P., an estimate of what the economy could produce at full employment. The big rise in debt from 2007 to the late 2010s was actually justified by economic events, and any attempt to avoid that rise would have done more harm than good by slowing our recovery even further. Did we borrow too much money? Probably not. During the economic crises of Covid and the Great Recession, adding to the debt was more than justified.
The labor-force participation (LFP) rate of prime-age workers (aged 25-54) and the foreign-born workforce have almost fully recovered. Neither explains the current squeeze. The biggest shortfall comes from Americans getting older and leaving work behind. Since 2019 those aged at least 65 have gone from less than 16% of the population to nearly 17%. Moreover, unlike prime-age workers, many people who retired early as covid-19 struck have not come back to work. LFP among older Americans, which rose from 12.5% in 2000 to 20.7% in early 2020, has dipped to 19.3%, the same as in 2016. The aging of the population accounts for the loss of 1.9m workers (0.7% of people aged at least 16), while the overall drop in LFP, mainly among the old, is responsible for a further 0.5m (0.2%).
In 2016, Ron Johnson rode Trump’s coattails and the Republican trail blazed by the former governor Scott Walker to a 3.4 point (50.2 to 46.8) victory and swept into office, in large part by running up huge margins in Milwaukee’s predominantly white suburbs. That changed in 2022. Craig Gilbert, a fellow at Marquette Law School conducted a detailed analysis of Wisconsin voting patterns and found that Johnson, “performed much worse in the red and blue suburbs of Milwaukee than he did six years earlier in 2016. So again, how did Johnson win? The simple answer: white rural Wisconsin. As recently as 17 years ago, rural Wisconsin was a battleground. In 2006, Jim Doyle, the Democratic candidate for governor, won rural Wisconsin, about 30 percent of the electorate, by 5.5 points. “Then came the rural red wave,” Gilbert writes. “Walker carried Wisconsin’s towns by 23 points in 2010 and by 25 points in 2014.” In 2016, Johnson won the rural vote by 25 points, but in 2022, he pushed his margin there to 29 points.
Summers has argued that the increase in public debt due to the fiscal response to COVID will lead, other things equal, to an increase in r [real return on capital]. He is right about the sign of the increase in public debt’s impact on r, but the effect is likely to be quite small. The debt-to-GDP ratio in advanced economies has increased only from 75 percent in 2019 to 82 percent in 2022; under standard assumptions, this implies an increase in r of no more than 15–30 basis points. That would be insufficient to offset the pre-COVID downward trend in safe rates, let alone to close the gap between r and g [growth rate of output.]
The above chart plots the history of US tax increases since 1950 (as % of GDP and vs Federal receipts as a % of GDP). While there have been tax increases of 2% of GDP or more, they occurred when overall tax receipts were much lower. The red square shows the required increases in taxes, which if spent entirely on increasing discretionary spending, would reduce the ratio of entitlements to non-defense discretionary spending back to 2.2x (its 2006 level). The Sanders high net worth income and capital gains tax plan and the Warren wealth tax plan appear as well.
Median weekly earnings for all workers were 7.4% higher, year-over-year, at the end of 2022, according to an analysis of newly released Labor Department data. The bottom 10th of wage earners—those that make about $570 a week—saw their pay increase by nearly 10%. Better pay increases late last year went to workers who attended college, a reversal from earlier in the pandemic when those who hadn’t completed high school saw outsize gains. The annual rate of wage growth for workers with less than a high school diploma touched a recent peak in the second quarter of 2022, when it was up 11.1% over the prior year, higher than the 7.6% wage growth during that period for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median raise for Black Americans employed full-time was 11.3%, compared with the prior year.
Current practice to measure inflation for monetary policy uses the average annual inflation rate. When inflation changes fast, whether increasing or decreasing, the annual average rate is biased towards data from too far in the past and conveys the true price level with six months delay. I propose to use instantaneous inflation as a more adequate measure of the price change. The measure trades off noise in the data with the precision of the instantaneous price change. Using the latest inflation numbers, it shows that instantaneous inflation in the US and the Eurozone is back to the target of 2% and that the high inflation period is over. Instantaneous core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is falling, but at 4%, it remains higher than the inflation target of 2%. The conventional measure of core inflation is at 5.7%.
The pandemic-induced shift to work from home yielded large private benefits in the form of commute time savings. To gauge the magnitude of these benefits, we turn to the Global Survey of Working Arrangements and consider data on commute times and the extent of work from home in 27 countries. We estimate that work from home saved about two hours per week per worker in 2021 and 2022, and that it will save about one hour per week per worker after the pandemic ends. That amounts to 2.2 percent of a 46-hour workweek, with 40 paid hours plus six hours of commuting. As we discussed, the after-tax wage rate is a reasonable benchmark for the private value of commute time savings. Thus, we estimate that the private value of the commute time savings associated with work from home will be about 2.2 percent of after-tax earnings in the post-pandemic economy.
The first and easiest leg of the bursting of the bubble we called for a year ago is complete. While the most extreme froth has been wiped off the market, valuations are still nowhere near their long-term averages. Further, in the past, they have usually overcorrected to below trend as fundamentals deteriorated. My calculations of trendline value of the S&P 500, adjusted upwards for trendline growth and for expected inflation, is about 3200 by the end of 2023. I believe it is likely (3 to 1) to reach that trend and spend at least some time below it this year or next. Not the end of the world but compared to the Goldilocks pattern of the last 20 years, pretty brutal.
“The bottom line is the defense industrial base, in my judgment, is not prepared for the security environment that now exists,” said Seth Jones, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Industry now is operating in a manner “better suited to a peacetime environment.” Mr. Jones recommends that the U.S. reassess its total munition requirements, urging Congress to hold hearings on the matter. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said in November that such an effort is already underway. The study also suggests reassessing American requirements for replenishing its stockpiles, creating a strategic munitions reserve, and determining a sustainable munitions procurement plan to meet current and future requirements.
It is hard to “reglobalize” when there hasn’t yet been any real deglobalization. The world will start deglobalizing when Chinese exports of global manufactures are no longer at a record level relative to global output and when China no longer needs to draw a record amount of net demand from the world to sustain its unbalanced economy. The graph is clear; China never deglobalized.
Starting in 2019, tighter immigration policies under the Trump Administration followed by pandemic disruptions depressed the US foreign-born working-age population. The foreign-born labor force fell 2.8 million below its long-term trend level in April 2020 and remained 1.2 million below trend in March 2022. The foreign-born population has grown 137k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 68k per month from Jan. 2010 to Jan. 2019. The chart above shows the foreign-born labor force has grown 110k per month in the past 18 months, compared to 42k per month during the prior period.
In just two decades, America has added $25 trillion in debt. The biggest — and often bipartisan — drivers of debt have been the federal responses to two sharp economic downturns: the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020 pandemic recession. Shortly after Mr. Obama took office in 2009, inheriting a recession, he pushed Congress to approve a nearly $800 billion package of tax cuts and stimulus spending. Safety-net spending continued at high levels for the next several years as the economy recovered sluggishly. Mr. Trump approved a much larger collection of aid packages, totaling more than $3 trillion after Covid-19 swept the world in 2020. Mr. Biden took office the next year and signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan soon after.
Over two-thirds of the structural fiscal imbalance derives from the unsustainable growth rates of federal health programs, most especially Medicare and Medicaid. Irrespective of future policy decisions in other areas such as tax policy, income security, and annually appropriated domestic and defense spending, federal finances will not be stabilized until Medicare and Medicaid’s growth rates are moderated. A survey of fiscal stewardship records produces the unsurprising result that more recent officeholders have tended to run far higher federal deficits than those countenanced by previously elected officials. The largest average federal deficits were operated during the Trump administration, followed, in turn, by the Obama, Ronald W. Reagan, and George H. W. Bush administrations.
Fiscal conservatives should aim to permanently stabilize the debt at 95 percent of GDP. This goal would mean keeping deficits near 3 percent of GDP, compared to the baseline deficits rising past 6 percent of GDP over the next decade and 11 percent of GDP in three decades. In the short run, this means: Freezing annual discretionary appropriations. Building momentum for mandatory spending reforms with a modest package of savings (perhaps $400 billion over the decade) that address lower-hanging fruit such as leftover pandemic spending, program overpayments, and federal spending benefits for upper-income families. Begin working toward Social Security and Medicare reform—which drive nearly 100 percent of long-term deficits—by building bipartisan working groups behind the scenes.
President Trump’s record on fiscal responsibility does not compare favorably to his immediate predecessors. Surely, it would not be fair to judge President Trump simply by the total budget deficits under his watch, however, as the $10 trillion 10-year baseline deficit that he inherited dwarfed the $4 trillion projected baseline deficit inherited by President Obama and the $6 trillion projected baseline surplus inherited by President Bush. That is far from a level playing field. On the other hand, President Trump also received the largest automatic deficit reductions from his inherited baseline. During his presidency, economic and technical factors that fall mostly outside of political control produced $3.9 trillion in 10-year deficit reduction, mainly through falling interest rates on the federal debt.
I note the increase in equity risk premiums during 2022 from 4.24% at the start of 2022 to 5.94% at the start of 2023. I posited that any debate about whether the market, as it stands now, is fair, under or overvalued is really one about whether the equity risk premium at the start of 2023 is too high (in which case, the market is undervalued) or too low (in which case, it is overvalued). To answer that question, and address the question of where the expected return of 9.82% stands in historical context, I report the expected returns and equity risk premiums for the S&P 500 from 1960 to 2022: At 5.94%, the implied equity risk premium is closer to top of the range of historical risk premiums, but the most striking feature of 2022 is that the expected return on stocks, at 9.82%, is now at its highest level since 1995.
In 2021 group life [insurance] payments exploded by 20.7% over the five-year average and by 15% over the acute pandemic year of 2020. If we remove both Covid-19 and unnatural deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, etc.), we see a dramatic spike of natural, non-Covid-19 deaths among working-age people beginning in the spring and summer of 2021. To overgeneralize: In 2020, the vulnerable died of Covid at unusually high rates. In 2021 and 2022, Covid continued its assault, but the young, middle-aged, and healthy also died in aberrantly high numbers of something else.
Bottom earners are employed about 25% less than those at the median, underscoring a less stable job ladder for them with fewer opportunities to learn on the job and to switch to better-paying firms. The average returns to each additional year of work experience across the lifetime earnings (LE) distribution; the returns are relatively flatter in the bottom half of LE distribution and increase steeply toward the top. An additional year of work experience increases male workers’ wages by around 2% to 3% for workers below the 65th percentile of the income distribution, versus 8% for those at the top.
One recurring feature of that history has been the procurement power of governments. Freed from the necessity of abiding by a neat cost-benefit calculation, the state has repeatedly helped overcome market risk by pulling innovative suppliers down the learning curve to the point where they can offer low-cost and reliable products to commercial markets. In these cases, “product-market fit” results from a state-initiated dynamic process that succeeds in aligning an immature “product” with a nascent “market.”
The pressure on Russia from sanctions is fading. Exports of manufactured goods to Russia have been rising rapidly in recent months, while exports of goods delivered to Russia’s friendly neighbors are soaring far beyond pre-invasion norms. If export restrictions and sanctions enforcement cannot be tightened further, the Russians may be able to restock some of their lost military equipment—and prolong the war. The overall trend is that exports of dual-use goods are rising, including from Europe. Moreover, the Chinese data show that exports of dual-use goods continued to jump in December, even if Korean exports of dual-use goods has retreated somewhat from the surge in October. The detailed data from Turkey are not yet available, but it is possible that their exports of dual-use goods also jumped in December.
The current account surpluses of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are at a record. Yet these surpluses are largely not being recycled into traditional reserve assets like Treasuries, which offer negative real returns at current inflation rates. Instead, we have seen more demand for gold, commodities, and geopolitical investments such as funding the [Belt and Road Initiative.] Leftover surpluses are held increasingly in bank deposits in liquid form to retain much-needed options in a changing world. If less trade is invoiced in US dollars and there is a dwindling recycling of dollar surpluses into traditional reserve assets such as Treasuries, the “exorbitant privilege” that the dollar holds as the international reserve currency could be under assault.
The irony is that while Pozsar correctly notes that China’s trade surplus is bigger than ever, he doesn’t realize that this makes China even more dependent, and not less dependent, on the willingness of China and the rest of the world to hold dollars. The key to global currency “domination” is not how excited the political elite say they are about having their currency dominate. It is how willing they are to allow clear and transparent foreign ownership of domestic assets and, even more importantly, how willing and able they are to give up control of their capital and trade accounts. Can we at least agree that China is reducing the dollar component of its reserves? Even that is questionable. China’s reserve accumulation since 2017 has occurred indirectly, through state-bank purchases of dollars. We have no idea whether or not the amount of dollars China is holding has increased or decreased, but simple B-o-P arithmetic tells us that China’s rising accumulation of foreign assets was mostly matched by rising foreign accumulation of US assets.
Our model suggests that overall U.S. labor supply declines during the years when trade costs are elevated and then begins to recover. The biggest cumulative drop of 0.7% occurs in 2022 and the recovery is slow. By 2027, labor supply is projected to still be 0.2% lower than its pre-shock level. The fall in labor supply occurs because, while trade costs are higher, focusing on home production activities that are not reliant on the labor market temporarily becomes more attractive for some people than working in industries that are affected by the trade disruption. The blue line in Figure 2 for the cumulative change in employment since 2019 combines the separate effects from labor force participation and unemployment (green and red lines). Even though the low point for labor supply occurs in 2022, our model does not project that the low point for employment will happen until 2023, due to the additional unemployment that is generated when the trade-cost shock dissipates.
The US is missing about a fifth of its pre-pandemic low-income workforce. At least some of those workers moved to higher-paying jobs, but, after adjusting for wage growth, researchers found employment for the poorest quarter of the workforce was still 13.5% below pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2021. Analyzing local trends, researchers found an important clue to where those missing workers went: Low-wage workers are scarcest where 2020’s devastation was worst. “It is clear there are large swaths of the population who are still not employed, and these are low-wage workers who lost their jobs in precisely the places where high-income people cut back on spending so sharply a couple of years ago,” Chetty said.
While underlying durables are now deflating, underlying services remain high—at about 5% over 3 months, accelerating to 7% month-over-month annualized in Dec. On the bright side, adjusted core service inflation has decelerated from 7.2% over 3 months (annualized) to Oct. to only 4.7% in Dec. This is clearly an improvement. But is that only because Oct. and Nov. prints were unusually soft, or was Dec. the outlier in an otherwise strong disinflation trend? The fear for the Fed then is super core services settling around 4-5% annualized instead of returning to the 2% run-rate that characterized the pre-pandemic norm. What will it be? It may take until March until we can be sure.
During the inflationary period of 2021-22, younger people and people without a college degree faced the highest inflation, with steadily widening gaps relative to the overall average between early 2021 and June 2022, followed by a rapid narrowing of the gaps and a reversal of some of them by December 2022. This pattern arises primarily from a greater share of the expenditures of younger people and people without a college degree being devoted to transportation—particularly used cars and motor fuel—which led the 2021 inflationary episode but has since converged to general inflation. As of December 2022, the disparity has reversed, with no-college households experiencing lower inflation over the last twelve months than college households did. The reversal of the earlier rise in inflation disparities can be explained by 1) transportation inflation, which affects no-college households relatively more, declining back to the headline CPI, and 2) housing inflation, which affects college households relatively more, rising faster than headline CPI.
American inflation is now largely driven by cyclical or demand-sensitive components like housing and labor-intensive services. Eurozone inflation is still driven mainly by rapid price increases in components like food, energy, and manufactured goods that are more representative of supply shocks than excess demand. Fundamentally, the biggest difference between Europe’s and America’s inflation situation comes from wage growth. Measured through negotiated wage growth or the labor cost index, Euro area wage growth has remained tempered, below 4%, and in line with pre-COVID levels as American wage growth set new records. Growth in listed wages on job postings in the Euro Area was 5.1% over the last year and less than 2% the year before. The comparable number in the US has grown by over 6%/yr for the past two years.
The 2021 mortality rate for those 15 to 34 was the highest since 1973, and for those 25 to 34, it was the highest since 1950. That something, it should be clear from the chart, is mostly external causes such as accidents (including accidental drug overdoses), suicides and homicides. Covid itself has been found to cause myocarditis, pericarditis and other heart troubles at a higher rate than the vaccines do, and given that the initial increase in heart-disease deaths coincided with the arrival of Covid, the simplest explanation is that Covid is chiefly to blame. There certainly was no big increase in heart-disease deaths after the vaccines arrived: in the 12 months starting in July 2021, there were 106 fewer heart-disease deaths among 15-to-34-year-olds than in the previous 12.
Large, persistent trade surpluses exist only because businesses in certain countries are able directly and indirectly to underpay domestic workers and households in order to become more competitive internationally and to grow more rapidly. It is especially absurd to criticize the United States, the country that typically absorbs 40–50 percent of global trade surpluses, as “protectionist.” If countries like the United States were to implement policies deemed “protectionist” and these were able even partly to reverse the trade imbalances (a big “if”), they would actually improve the efficiency of global trade by reducing the imbalances.
The notable decline in the total level of reserves in the banking system this year may have been an important factor for the rise in DW [discount window] borrowing. Indeed, as the Fed has gradually shrunk its balance sheet, the cash balances of smaller institutions, particularly those with total assets less than $10 billion, have in aggregate declined sharply relative to their asset size, reducing their liquidity positions. Smaller banks are generally more willing to come to the DW than their larger counterparts, as they are usually not publicly traded companies and are less subject to public scrutiny. Banks smaller than $3 billion in assets on average visited the DW twice as much as other banks in 2019, just prior to the pandemic.
Let’s consider two male workers, one in the bottom (in the first two percentiles) and the other in the 65th percentile of the lifetime earnings distribution. Both experienced on average a 2% growth in annual earnings if they stayed with the same employer. However, if they changed employers, the bottom earner did not see any growth in his earnings, whereas the 65th-percentile earner enjoyed, on average, 3% growth. This large heterogeneity among switchers indicates that the nature of job switches is very different throughout the lifetime earnings distribution. More than 35% of job switches were a result of a significant unemployment spell for the bottom earners, compared with only around 15% in the top third of earners, suggesting a much higher unemployment risk for bottom earners. Finally, earnings growth for both job stayers and job switchers increases steeply in the top third, reaching around 10% for the highest earners.
New business applications rose by 44% from 2019 to 2022, with the sharpest increases in Southern states, according to US Census Bureau figures released Tuesday. About 5.1 million applications were filed last year, down from the record 5.4 million in 2021, but up from 3.5 million in 2019.
For many products, countries rely on a diversified pool of trade partners. This is particularly true for larger economies. For example, China imports crude oil from more than 40 economies, and the United States imports cars from more than 25 nations. A significant portion of global trade is concentrated in the sense that an economy relies on only a handful of nations to source almost all of its imports of a specific product. Indeed, 40% of the value of global goods trade corresponds to cases where the importing economy relies on three or fewer nations for the supply of a given manufactured good or resource. Narrowing the focus further, about 15 percent of global goods trade corresponds to cases where the importing economy relies on only two or fewer nations. Most concentration is due not to a lack of supplier economies. Instead, concentration arises because of specific choices to source products from only a few countries despite the fact that other potential supplying countries are available. In this research, this type of concentration is described as “economy-specific concentration.” Of the 40% of global trade value that relies on three or fewer supplier economies, about three-quarters corresponds to economy-specific concentration.
Some supply chain experts argue that the growth numbers in iPhone “manufacturing” in India are more hype than reality. Although 200M phones were made in India last year, they are not in the same league as Apple’s products. The most popular models typically sell for $250 or less, while average iPhones cost nearly $1,000 and require more sophisticated automation and labor intensity. Woo-Jin Ho, hardware analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, projects that Apple will shift just 10% of iPhone production outside of China by 2030, or at most 20% if it moves aggressively.
In the past two decades, SNAP has transformed from a $20 billion per year safety net program, to upwards of $100 billion per year. Increased economic need cannot explain the upward trend in the SNAP caseload, though. Unemployment rates fluctuated over the past 20 years, but rates were lower in 2017–2019 than they were in the previous economic peak of 2000–2001, yet millions more people received SNAP in 2019 than in the early 2000s.
Put differently, a 10-percentage-point effect on religious attendance implies that following the blue law repeals, about 10,000 out of every 100,000 middle-aged adults stopped attending services weekly. If mortality grew by 2 per 100,000 as a result, and assuming that the subsequent increase in middle-aged deaths came from this group, about 1 out of 5,000 of these of “marginal attenders” would consequently die from suicide, liver disease, or poisoning annually. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that declines in religious attendance can explain an important part of the initial increase in mortality due to deaths of despair. Of course, since the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, deaths of despair for middle-aged white Americans have increased dramatically both overall and relative to trend. The impact that we witness seems to be driven by the decline in formal religious participation rather than in belief or personal activities like prayer.
Figure 1 shows indices of U.S. construction sector labor productivity and TFP from 1950 to 2020. For comparison, it also plots the same indices for the overall economy. Throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, both measures of construction sector productivity grew steadily. Indeed, they outpaced their whole-economy counterparts during that period. By 1970, however, the construction sector’s labor productivity and TFP had both begun to fall. By 2020, while aggregate labor productivity and TFP were 290 percent and 230 percent higher than in 1950, both measures of construction productivity had fallen below their 1950 values. This is stunningly bad productivity performance for a major sector. Construction labor productivity fell at an average rate of about 1% per year from 1970-2020. Had it instead grown at the (relatively modest) rate of 1%per year, aggregate labor productivity (and plausibly, income per capita) being about 10% higher than it actually was.
The global economy has already adjusted to a slowdown in Japanese institutional fixed-income demand—Japanese investors have gone from buying about $100 billion a year of foreign bonds on average over the last ten years to selling close to $200 billion in 2022. The most likely outcome in 2023 is a continuation of the roll down in Japanese holdings of foreign bonds observed in 2022, as the large pool of hedged Japanese investors allow maturing bonds to roll off at par rather than reinvest abroad. That more mundane reality still implies the large flow into global fixed income from Japanese institutional investors over the last decade will dwindle to a relative trickle.
The Fed switched to “quantitative tightening”—an inelegant term for “letting some bonds mature”—which meant that new buyers needed to be found. State and local governments continued their purchases, but money-market funds shed Treasury bills and coupons for reverse repos with the Fed, while other buyers cut back on their purchases. The resulting mix of buyers in the first three quarters of 2022 looked a lot different than in prior periods. The entire net issuance was covered by the two most opaque sectors in the financial accounts: “households and nonprofit organizations” and “the rest of the world”.
High costs and labor shortages now bedevil the shale patch. Wall Street wants profits paid back to investors, not reinvested in new rigs. Even with crude prices at $80 a barrel, a price far above the long-term average, shale producers still fear to splurge capital. To top it off, new wells are yielding less oil. “The aggressive growth era of US shale is over,” says Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, the country’s biggest shale producer. “The shale model definitely is no longer a swing producer.” Output today remains well below the pre-Covid highs, and is now growing glacially by shale standards despite 18 months of strong oil prices.
The result is that China’s share of U.S. imports dropped from a peak of 22% in 2017 to less than 17% last year. Other Asian economies and Mexico are gaining share—most notably Vietnam, whose exports to the U.S. rose from less than $10 billion before 2007 to more than $120 billion in 2022. The Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Malaysia have also enjoyed rapid export growth to the U.S., while also increasing their exports to China. Mexico’s annual exports to the U.S. have roughly doubled since 2008 to more than $400 billion, and they have increased to China, too.
Trade between the US and China is on track to break records, a signal of resilient links between the world’s top economies amid the heated national security rhetoric in Washington and fears of “decoupling.” US government data through November suggest that imports and exports in 2022 will add up to an all-time high, or at least come very close, when the final report comes out Feb. 7. Beijing just published its own full-year figures that show record trade of around $760 billion.
Below we show our historical measure of the high-yield spread. The thin line is where the high-yield spread is today. The current value of 4.3% is just above the long-term median of 4.2%. Right now, credit spreads are suggesting default risk is about normal in the high-yield market.
Worker pay actually fell in the past two years after accounting for inflation. Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings—or real earnings—were down 1.7% in December 2022 from a year earlier, following a 2.1% decline in December 2021 [from a year earlier].
Inflation seems to be waning. Is this not a victory lap for “team transitory,” the view that inflation is just “supply shocks” that go away on their own? No. A “supply shock” would raise prices temporarily, and then prices would fall back down to normal once the supply shock is over. A supply shock all on its own cannot permanently raise the price level. How is the price level doing? The cumulative inflation has shifted up the price level by something like 10-20%, depending on what you think about the earlier trend. The fiscal theory or “demand” view says that this price level shock is permanent, or at least until something else comes along; a fiscal retrenchment would be necessary to lower the price level back to where it was.
Traditional core and wage core still suggest inflation running hotter than the Fed’s 2 percent target, but not by all that much. Until mid-2022, inflation just kept getting more widespread, and you had to work ever harder to claim that at some fundamental level it wasn’t that bad. If you want a broader view, Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute has an incredibly cool graphic showing the distribution of price changes across the economy.
The behavior of US inflation during the past 5-10 years has been strikingly similar to the behavior of inflation during the early 1970s. If this continues, inflation should be back on target in mid-2024. Core inflation followed headline inflation during the early 1970s, both when inflation rose and when it fell. Today, headline inflation has been falling for the past six months, while core inflation has not. This is worrying. It indicates that underlying inflationary pressures are more pronounced today than in the early 1970s. If correct, which I think it is, it will be more difficult to get inflation under control than in the early 1970s. Consequently, I believe the Fed should keep interest rates elevated for at least one more year.
The National Bureau of Statistics confirmed on Tuesday that China’s overall population dropped by 850,000 people to 1.4118 billion in 2022, down from 1.4126 billion a year earlier. The national birth rate fell to a record low of 6.77 for every 1,000 people as Chinese mothers had only 9.56 million babies – the nation’s lowest total in modern history and the first time the figure fell below 10 million.
It is also really a long-term problem whose effect will be overwhelmed by the near-term adjustment process. If Beijing succeeds in redistributing income to households in a non-disruptive way, a declining working population can drive more than enough growth in domestic demand. What is more, as direct and indirect wages rise, this will put pressure on China to invest in increasing worker productivity rather than invest in expanding economic activity and the building of railroads to nowhere. On the other hand, if Beijing doesn’t redistribute income to households in a non-disruptive way, China will anyway suffer a brutally difficult transition once unsustainable debt levels force it to cut back on non-productive investment.
The graph shows household mortgage debt as a percent of GDP through Q3 2022 (based on the Fed’s Flow of Funds report). The “bubble” is pretty obvious on this graph, and the sharp increase in mortgage debt was one of the warning signs. The blip up in Q2 2020 was related to the collapse in GDP rather than an increase in mortgage debt. The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record low levels), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. Most homeowners have significant equity, were well qualified, and have a mortgage with low rates that they can afford. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.
JPMorgan Chase said it might be forced to pay more for deposits this year in what analysts called “a warning shot for the entire industry”. JPMorgan said deposits in the fourth quarter were $2.4T, down 4% from a year earlier. This was the bank’s first year-on-year decline since 2016. Investors and analysts anticipate that banks will eventually have to reward deposit holders with better rates to retain their business and JPMorgan said it expected that would be the case in 2023.
The 12-month median wage change is now back to where it was in the second half of the 1990s—not exactly a period of excessive price increases outside of Beanie Babies and stocks. That could soon be corroborated by the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which Fed officials and others regularly view as the single best indicator of wages. The ECI only comes out once a quarter, and the latest data right now are from 2022Q3. If the Q4 number were to move in line with the most recent hourly earnings numbers and the Atlanta Fed’s median wage change tracker, then the job market would no longer a worrying source of inflationary pressure. This could be noise, but it is looking increasingly likely that inflation may in fact normalize without policymakers having to push the economy into a downturn.
Still, even if a lot of wage and price growth does prove transitory, that won’t necessarily comfort the Fed. When officials began using the term “transitory” in March 2021, the unemployment rate was 6% and consumers expected about 3% inflation in the coming year. In other words, the main determinants of underlying inflation—aggregate supply and demand and expectations—justified a sanguine outlook. Not anymore. Unemployment is now 3.5% and consumers expect 4.6% inflation in the coming year, according to the University of Michigan. This is why the Fed can’t signal an end to interest rate increases yet and the risk of a recession can’t be dismissed.
The sharp, secular decline in the world real interest rate of the past thirty years suggests that the surge in global demand for financial assets outpaced the growth in their supply. This phenomenon was driven by faster growth in emerging markets, changes in the financial structure of both emerging and advanced economies, and changes in demand and supply of public debt issued by advanced economies. The net foreign liabilities of advanced economies grew massively. The net foreign assets of advanced economies, as a share of their collective GDP, fell from close to zero at the beginning of the 1990s to about -20 percent in 2020.
Over the last 50 years, the Alps experienced a 5.6% reduction per decade in snow cover duration, which already affects a region where economy and culture revolve, to a large extent, around winter. Here we present evidence from 572 ring-width series extracted from a prostrate shrub (Juniperus communis) growing at high elevation in the Val Ventina, Italy. These ring-width records show that the duration of current snowpack cover is 36 days shorter than the long-term mean, a decline that is unprecedented over the last six centuries.
The consumer-price index, a measurement of what consumers pay for goods and services, rose 6.5% last month from a year earlier, down from 7.1% in November and well below a 9.1% peak in June. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, climbed 5.7% in December from a year earlier, easing from a 6% gain in November. Core prices increased at a 3.1% annualized rate in the three months that ended in December, the slowest pace in more than a year.
The broad story continues to be that goods prices have gone from unusually large increases to unusually large decreases. And services prices have slowed a little from their rapid summer pace but continue to grow very quickly. Excluding housing (which is ~40% of core) and used cars, super-core inflation was consistently modest for the last three months at a 1.8% annual rate over this period. That is the lowest since February 2021. Overall, 3 consecutive months of relatively moderate core inflation. And some positive developments yet to happen, like future shelter slowdown. But a bit less moderation than hoped & the job of getting inflation to 2% or even 3% is still not done.
The first step is to throw out any plans that depend on the House firebrands playing ball. They aren’t bluffing. Biden and congressional Democrats need to accept this reality and start working on a deal today. They should acknowledge the more widely shared Republican argument that federal spending has reached problematic levels – a conviction founded at least partly on the American Rescue Plan’s role in sparking inflation – and they should then find some spending that can be cut. In exchange, the debt ceiling should be raised high enough that it will be many years before it can again be used as a weapon. Second, responsible members of Congress must make plans to avoid a default. One idea worth exploring is to use a discharge petition to force a debt-ceiling increase to the floor of the House in the event that McCarthy is unwilling to do so.
In fact, the massive buildout of US LNG export capacity (America became the world’s number one LNG exporter last year) combined with the total collapse in Russian natural gas supplies to Europe has meant that the EU now gets more gas from the US than the Russian Federation. In Euro terms, the EU now actually imports slightly more total energy (including oil, petroleum products, coal, etc.) from the US than Russia. Barring a rapid about-face in Russian energy politics, this gap will likely only continue to grow—American LNG export capacity is expected to increase in 2023, especially as the Freeport LNG facility in Texas recovers from its accident last year, and the EU already banned further imports of Russian crude just over a month ago.
China is moving away from its “three red lines” policy of limiting leverage in the property sector, after its effort to reduce risky lending and real estate speculation helped fuel a wave of defaults and triggered a slump in the property market. Beijing is now easing constraints on developer credit and even rolling out potential loans following a severe downturn that saw housing and land sales collapse, threatening a major pillar of an economy already ailing from coronavirus lockdowns. Officials at multiple state-owned banks said they had effectively shelved the leverage curbs — whose three red lines refer to targets for debt, equity, and assets for individual companies — in their assessment of borrowers. Late last year, state-owned banks announced hundreds of billions of dollars of potential new lending to property developers.
For now, Beijing seems to want to stabilize the property sector and slow the pace of adjustment to reduce financial distress. It is not clear, however, that this is a realistic goal. In a speculative market, it is the expectations of rising prices that generate the demand for more rising prices, and once these expectations are reversed, it is very hard to prevent prices from falling. With real demand expected to fall sharply in the next few years, it will be impossible to wring speculation out of the property market without much lower prices and a significant increase in the spread of financial distress.
The US and Japan have announced they are extending their security alliance to space in a push to defend against attacks on satellites amid growing concern about the threat from China. “We agree that attacks to, from or within space present a clear challenge,” said US secretary of state Antony Blinken after he and US defense secretary Lloyd Austin met their Japanese counterparts in Washington on Wednesday. “We affirm that, depending on the nature of those attacks, this could lead to the invocation of Article 5 of our Japan-US security treaty,” Blinken added, pointing to the section of the treaty stipulating that an attack on either party would prompt the other to “act to meet the common danger.”
Pinning down just how much firms depend on outsiders is tricky—companies do not advertise this sort of thing. A measure, “outsourcing intensity,” [tracks] a firm’s external purchase commitments in the upcoming year as a share of its cost of sales. The Economist has calculated the measure using data from financial reports for a sample of large listed firms from America and Europe. Average outsourcing intensity across our sample has nearly doubled from 11% in 2005 to 22% in the most recent year of data (either 2021 or 2022). This growth is especially pronounced among tech titans such as Apple and Microsoft; businesses that grew little over the analyzed period, such as Unilever, a British consumer-goods giant, saw only small increases. This is consistent with research which finds that as firms grow ever larger and adopt more technologies, thus becoming more complex and unwieldy, they outsource more operations—precisely as Coase would have predicted.
Figure 2 shows the net departure rates from the state by income tax bracket between 2003 and 2018. Since 2003, only middle-income earners in the 9.3 percent income tax bracket have entered California at higher rates than left during any year over the time period. The top bracket, and the highest earners within the top bracket in particular, display the highest net out-migration rate over the whole period. Higher-income earners who leave the state are not being replaced by other high earners at the same rate. California’s top earners are particularly mobile, showing the highest rates of departure around tax policy changes such as Proposition 30 in 2012 and the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 as well as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Consequently, potential net outflows of taxable income spiked to nearly $4 billion in the year TCJA was implemented and $10.7 billion around COVID-19. High-earning movers have been consistently more likely to leave California for zero-income tax states since 2012, and those who experienced larger tax increases under TCJA were more likely to depart.
The total size of the banking sector was little changed over 2022, but the static surface obscures a boom in lending of epic proportions. Banks changed the composition of their assets by replacing their cash and security holdings with loans to the real economy. Around $1.2T in loans were made in 2022, a level around three times higher than that of recent years. The same explosive growth is also seen in credit unions, which are functionally similar to small banks. Credit union loans outstanding grew $0.23T from 2021Q3 to 2022Q3 (Q4 data not available), a level also there times higher than in recent years. Loan growth was strong across categories and appeared to persist despite rising rates. The huge credit growth in 2022 can be likened to the prior fiscal stimulus, with the exception that the money must one day be repaid. Borrowers have $1.5T more in purchasing power that they did not have before. The need to repay the money may affect their spending decisions and willingness to take on additional debt, but credit cycles can last for years.
The government’s official data for the total number of births in 2022 — expected to be released next week — will probably show a record low of 10 million, according to independent demographer He Yafu. That would be less than the 10.6 million babies born in 2021, which was already the sixth straight year of decline and the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He added that the country likely recorded more deaths last year than the 10.1 million people who died in 2021, in part because of the spread of Covid infections.
The debt ceiling of $31.3 trillion is expected to be hit sometime early in the autumn. Daniel Clifton of Strategas notes: “McCarthy agreed to allow three House Freedom Caucus members to sit on the Rules Committee and these members are likely going to demand spending cuts, which do not have the support of a majority of House Republicans, let alone Democrats, as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Legislation has to go through the Rules Committee to be placed on the floor under regular order in the House. Conservatives have weakened the Speaker and have leverage.”
The global balance of payments has to add up (at least in theory). But it is still surprising how well the surplus of East Asia and main oil exporters lines up with the deficits of the US and a few others — (excluding the EU makes everything line up better). To make sure I don’t completely bury the lede — the surplus of the Asia + oil block has doubled since 2020 … so there have to be some offsetting adjustments in the global deficit. The recycling is taking place in rather complex ways, as the big surplus countries aren’t just adding to their reserves/ it isn’t flowing directly into bonds.
In my sample, I include all publicly traded firms with market capitalizations that exceed zero, traded anywhere in the world. While there are risks in bringing in very small and lightly-traded companies, with shaky data, into the sample, I include them to avoid the biases that will be created in industry averages by looking at just larger publicly traded companies or just US-listed companies. In January 2023, I ended up with 47,913 publicly traded firms in my sample, with the pie chart above providing a geographic breakdown.
This paper examines the impact of Medicaid expansions to parents and childless adults on adult mortality. Specifically, we evaluate the long-run effects of eight state Medicaid expansions from 1994 through 2005 on all-cause, healthcare-amenable, non-healthcare-amenable, and HIV-related mortality rates using state-level data. We utilize the synthetic control method to estimate effects for each treated state separately and the generalized synthetic control method to estimate average effects across all treated states. Using a 5% significance level, we find no evidence that Medicaid expansions affect any of the outcomes in any of the treated states or all of them combined. Moreover, there is no clear pattern in the signs of the estimated treatment effects. These findings imply that evidence that pre-ACA Medicaid expansions to adults saved lives is not as clear as previously suggested.
The weakened ozone layer, which is vital to protecting life on Earth, is on track to be restored to full strength within decades — the latest success of a global effort by nations to stop using chemicals that had been destroying the critical layer in the upper atmosphere. In a report for the United Nations, scientists said Monday that if countries continue to maintain the bans on chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals, ozone levels between the polar regions should reach pre-1980 levels by 2040. Ozone holes, or regions of greater depletion that appear regularly near the South Pole and, less frequently, near the North Pole, should also recover, by 2045 in the Arctic and about 2066 in Antarctica.
Total weekly wages paid to employees—the number of workers on payroll times the average workweek times average hourly pay—is now rising at a yearly rate of less than 4%. That is a dramatic deceleration from March-September 2022, when aggregate wage income was still rising about 7.5% annualized. If this holds up, even the most persistent components of inflation should quickly come back into line. The number of people quitting rose so much in November—the latest month for which we have data—that the proportion of workers quitting their jobs for better prospects elsewhere rose for the first time since the spring. Until that changes, it is hard for me to imagine (nominal) wage growth slowing down much more than it already has, even if nominal labor income growth has already decelerated sharply thanks to the slowdown in hours worked.
When the income of the children is compared with the inflation-adjusted income of their parents using the real income quintiles of their childhood in 1982-86 rather than the income quintiles of 2013-17, measured mobility is dramatically greater. Only 28% of children reared in the bottom quintile had adult incomes that would put them in the bottom childhood quintile, and 26% rose all the way to the childhood top quintile, which required a minimum income of only $111,416 (in 2016 dollars) for a family of four in 1982-86. A family of four with that income in 2013-17 would have been in the middle quintile based on 2013-17 income distribution.
In recent years, however, the amount of energy that the US exports has actually started to blot out the energy it still imports. Enough so, that the US has finally moved out of its post-war energy deficit, into a small surplus. In other words, from a trade balance perspective, its current account in energy terms is now positive. Here, we examine this trade balance not in dollar terms, but in energy content terms. And as you can see, after running in the red for a long time (certainly longer than is covered in the chart) the US has now moved into the black. Net imports, which used to be positive, are now negative. That’s a powerful position to be in, and we saw an example of this power just this year, when American LNG started making its way to Europe, during Putin’s war of aggression.
Although not everyone in semiconductor manufacturing requires a PhD, pretty much everyone has to be of above-average intelligence, and many will need to be in the top echelons of IQ. At the very top of semiconductor manufacturing, you are going to need workers with IQs at or higher than 1 in a 1000 people and there are only 164,000 of these workers in the United States, and US might be able to place only say 100,000 high-IQ workers in high-IQ professions. It’s very difficult to run a high-IQ civilization of 330 million on just 100,000 high-IQ workers. To some extent, we can economize on high-IQ workers by giving lower-IQ workers smarter tools and drawing on non-human intelligence. But we also need to draw on high-IQ workers throughout the world–which explains why some of the linchpins of our civilization end up in places like Eindhoven or Taiwan.
Commodities strategists at TD Securities are on the case, speculating in a note published on Monday that the gold whale could be the Chinese official sector. “Armed with a flows-based approach, we present strong evidence that behemoth Chinese and official sector purchases may have single-handedly catalyzed a $150/oz mispricing in gold markets. What is less clear is what has driven these massive purchases.” While TD might be able to trace buying to China, it’s not entirely clear to them what’s driving those purchases. Here, the strategists theorize about a number of possibilities stretching from extra demand stemming from recent reopening measures as well as restocking ahead of China’s Lunar New Year. But there’s also the possibility that China is purchasing gold for strategic, rather than strictly economic factors.
Across fields, we find that science and technology are becoming less disruptive. Figure 2 plots the average CD5 [an index that characterizes how papers and patents change networks of citations in science and technology] over time for papers (Fig. 2a) and patents (Fig. 2b). For papers, the decrease between 1945 and 2010 ranges from 91.9% (where the average CD5 dropped from 0.52 in 1945 to 0.04 in 2010 for ‘social sciences’) to 100% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.36 in 1945 to 0 in 2010 for ‘physical sciences’); for patents, the decrease between 1980 and 2010 ranges from 78.7% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.30 in 1980 to 0.06 in 2010 for ‘computers and communications’) to 91.5% (where the average CD5 decreased from 0.38 in 1980 to 0.03 in 2010 for ‘drugs and medical’). For both papers and patents, the rates of decline are greatest in the earlier parts of the time series, and for patents, they appear to begin stabilizing between the years 2000 and 2005. For papers, since about 1980, the rate of decline has been more modest in ‘life sciences and biomedicine’ and physical sciences, and most marked and persistent in social sciences and ‘technology’.
The negative impact of the Great Recession on aggregate hours worked and the ensuing slow recovery through 2019 materialized almost exclusively along the extensive margin. However, of the 3% decline in annual hours worked per person (including those who do not work) between 2019 and 2022, more than half is accounted for by the intensive margin. That is, focusing only on the extensive margin (lower employment and participation rates) will underestimate the total decline in labor supply by more than half. The most striking fact is the lower participation of young male cohorts without a bachelor’s degree, whose participation rate is up to 7pp below that of older cohorts at the same age. The Great Recession seems to be casting a very long shadow, even on those who were in their teens when it happened.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 in December, capping a near-record year for job growth, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The advance followed a 256,000 gain in November. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% from a month earlier and 4.6% from December 2021 after November’s previously eye-popping gain was revised lower. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5%, matching a five-decade low, as participation inched higher. The labor force participation rate — the share of the population that is working or looking for work — ticked up to 62.3%, and the rate for workers ages 25-54 rose.
The CPI inflation rate over the past 12 months has been an alarming 7.1%. But the U.S. economy got there by averaging an appalling 10.6% annualized inflation rate over the first seven months and a mere 2.5% over the last five. The PCE price index tells a similar story, though a somewhat less dramatic one. The 5.5% inflation rate over the past 12 months came from a 7.8% rate over the first seven months followed by a 2.4% rate over the last five. If you concentrate instead on “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, annual inflation over the past five months has run higher: a 4.7% annual rate for the CPI and 3.7% for the PCE. So the Fed’s fight against inflation isn’t over.
[The above chart] plots the change in the smoothed jobless unemployment rate (first derivative) on the horizontal axis and the change in the change (second derivative) on the vertical axis. Recession months are depicted as red dots and expansion months as green dots. This predictor is almost as accurate as the slope of the yield curve but is more accurate at shorter horizons. The jobless rate does not currently signal an impending recession, nor do other macroeconomic time series analyzed using the same methodology. In general, however, examining these series suggests that the business cycle is at a maturing stage when expansions typically come to an end.
The Global Supply Chain Pressure Index peaked at 4.3 standard deviations above its historical mean at the end of 2021, after which it declined substantially. The initial period of decline saw it drop to 2.8 by March 2022, after which it temporarily increased in April, primarily due to pandemic lockdowns in China and the Russia-Ukraine war. The GSCPI then experienced five consecutive months of declines, reaching a low of 0.9 in September. However, the past three months have witnessed a pause in the reversion to the historical average, with the index increasing by a total of 0.29 points in October and November before declining by 0.05 points last month, leaving the total three-month increase at about a quarter point. We can partly attribute the recent slowdown of the GSCPI’s return to its historical average to worsening supply conditions in China, which have also spilled over into its neighboring trade partners.
A change in the underlying plumbing of the financial system is making it unlikely that QT can run its expected 2+ year course. An ideal QT would drain liquidity in the overall financial system while keeping liquidity in the banking sector above a minimum threshold. The marginal buyer of short-dated Treasuries over 2022 Q3 appears to surprisingly be U.S. households. Federal Reserve data show that household purchases of Treasuries surged to record levels on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as [money market funds] notably shrank their holdings. Households appear to have replaced money market funds as the marginal buyer of bills and are funding their purchases out of funds held in the banking sector.
From March 2020 to August 2021, consumers amassed a peak $2.1 trillion in excess savings relative to the pre-pandemic trend. Since August 2021, consumers have drawn down on these excess savings. Household debt payments were 9.8% of disposable personal income in Q4 ’22 vs. a peak of 13.2% in Q4 of ’04.
The figure above plots the estimated average change in net worth per head of household age category during 2022. People between the ages of 55 and 74 lost, on average, over $100,000 in net worth due to falling asset returns between January and October 2022. This partly reverses some of the net worth gains in 2020-21, which were particularly high for these age groups. This is explained by the high exposure (in absolute terms) of people in these age groups to asset classes such as stocks and bonds, which performed reasonably well in 2020-21 but posted significant negative returns during 2022. Focusing on only people between the ages of 51 and 65, whose decision to participate in the labor force tends to be more sensitive to wealth effects, we find that the decline in asset values may have caused an extra 170,000 people to return to the labor force. This corresponds to an increase in the LFP rate of 0.06 percentage points, or about 16% of the total increase observed through October 2022.
We find evidence of a decline in the size of the persistent component of core PCE inflation starting in September 2022. The decline follows a long period of high and essentially constant inflation persistence. Dissecting the layers of aggregate inflation provides further insights: core goods and core services ex-housing have been moderating since early 2022, reflecting the evolution of the common component, while housing has continued to move up, driven by its own sector-specific trend. The chart below shows a sectoral decomposition of the increase in inflation from its pre-pandemic average. The chart shows that the persistent component of housing represents a fair amount of the overall increase in trend, comparable to the contribution of core goods and core services ex-housing.
Computer security experts were struggling this week to assess a startling claim by Chinese researchers that they have found a way to break the [RSA algorithm,] the most common form of online encryption, using the current generation of quantum computers, years before the technology was expected to pose a threat. Peter Shor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist whose 1994 algorithm proving that a quantum machine could defeat online encryption, noted that the Chinese researchers had “failed to address how fast the algorithm will run”, and said that it was possible it “will still take millions of years”. He said: “In the absence of any analysis showing that it will be faster, I suspect that the most likely scenario is that it’s not much of an improvement.”
About 79% of workers recently hired after a tech-company layoff or termination landed their new job within three months of starting their search, according to a ZipRecruiter survey of new hires. That was just below the 83% share of all laid-off workers who were re-employed in the same time frame. Nearly four in ten previously laid-off tech workers found jobs less than a month after they began searching, ZipRecruiter found in the survey.
After last year’s selloff, we’re much closer to the end of the young unprofitable companies/mega-valued unprofitable companies repricing than the beginning. By the time Peloton is priced at 1x sales rather than its peak level of 19x sales at the end of 2020, it’s time to start thinking about whether unprofitable companies can become profitable or not. Many unprofitable companies are in that position since the market did not require them to be profitable. The aftermath of the 2000-2002 dot-com crash is interesting in this regard: The chart above shows the performance of tech companies from 2000 to 2004 based on their initial and subsequent profitability. Companies that remained unprofitable continued to languish. However, unprofitable companies that became profitable by 2004 rallied sharply, catching up to companies that had been profitable all along. This incorporates the benefit of perfect hindsight; still, it does indicate that for stock pickers that sift through the wreckage to try and identify survivors, there may be attractive opportunities. The size of [“unprofitable in 2000” cohort that became profitable by 2004] was roughly 50% of the “unprofitable in 2000” universe.
Employees of embattled tech groups are flooding secondary markets — where stakeholders in a private company sell shares to third parties — as the industry’s former darlings such as Klarna and Stripe have been forced into aggressive cost-cutting measures, according to brokers and investors. For many workers who have lost their jobs, their shares vest within 60 days, forcing them to sell during the worst downturn in a decade. Some companies are offering an extension on this timeframe, according to brokers, although some sellers want to get out of their holdings over fears the market rout will get worse next year. However, trading in many of these companies showed a return to, or an improvement on, pre-pandemic prices, following a significant jump in valuations during a VC fundraising boom in 2021.