Banks currently own 450,000 houses, 2 million are in foreclosure, and 1.7 million more have not had a mortgage payment made on them in 90 days. This adds up to 4.15 million houses. The problem is that the economy has lost 5.2 million jobs since the start of the recession in January ’08. Absent those job losses, the foreclosure problem vanishes. That’s why robust job growth is so critical.
Despite good job growth, consumer spending is growing faster than personal income, driving the savings rate down to 3.7%, the lowest rate in years. Why? Unemployment insurance income is falling. In Jan and Feb 551K jobs were created while 550K lost unemployment benefits. What’s going on is the wages these folks are earning aren’t much more than the UI they lost. I also bet personal income data will be revised up.
Recent economic data are mixed. On one hand, the job market is doing well, bank lending is rising, and car sales are zooming. But, gasoline prices are up, real after-tax incomes are almost flat — causing consumer spending to grow a tiny inflation-adjusted 0.6% between 7/11 and 1/12 — and GDP growth is tepid. Either GDP numbers get adjusted upwards or start rising to catch up with employment growth, or new job numbers start to decline.
The perception is that small business creates most new jobs. NO! The best predictor of job creation is age of firm. Younger firms create more jobs regardless of size. New firms operate in a volatile “up or out” environment. After 5 years many young firms fail. But, those that survive continue ramping up and grow faster than mature firms. Startups account for 3% of employment but 20% of job creation
In Feb there was no rise in average weekly wages, but there was a 0.5% inflation in consumer prices meaning that real incomes fell by 0.5%. They have now fallen in 5 of the last 6 months during with time it has shrunk by 2.3%. Thus, the anemic job growth we are experiencing is barely keeping total real income for the economy flat.
192K jobs in Feb! But wait. Due to storms in Jan let’s avg out job growth in Jan and Feb. That gets us about 125K per month; not much better than in Q4 ’10. So we have positive job growth but no acceleration! This suggests GDP growth of 3% maybe 3.5%; half of what’s needed! Moreover, since Oct 700K persons have left the labor force and the participation rate is at a 27 year low!