Yet again, the labor market is the one strong player in an otherwise lackluster economic expansion. After a slowdown in the latter months of 2016, total net new job growth registered an unexpectedly strong 227,000 in January. With the current unemployment rate at 4.8%, this has provoked debates as to whether we have hit a level below which inflation and other expansion-threatening instabilities begin to appear.
From data clarity comes policy clarity. While the December jobs report shows that labor market performance remains steady, there are significant concerns that are not going to abate on their own. It was a good year for those seeking work. Employers added a net 2.2 million new jobs to their payrolls. This is slower than the 2.7 million added in 2015 and the 3 million added in 2014. It is nonetheless an encouraging performance given that the employment recovery began in earnest six years ago and has been confronting sluggish and volatile economic growth.
In a potentially brighter sign for a slow-growing, stressed U.S. manufacturing sector, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its widely followed Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a two-year high in December. This critical leading index of manufacturing growth has been strengthening consistently since September even as actual manufacturing output data remain distressingly weak, preventing the U.S. factory sector from achieving a full recovery from the Great Recession.
Global Economy, Money & Finance, Currency, Government Finance, Inflation
For only the second time in a decade and the first time in a year, the Federal Open Market Committee, the policymaking body of the Federal Reserve, has elected to increase the target range for its influential federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 0.50% to 0.75%.
After multiple holdups, a new trade agreement has been reached between the EU and Canada. The Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), for which negotiations began in 2009, was signed on October 30 after the EU bridged differences among some constituencies.
The U.S., meanwhile, has not concluded a trade deal since 2012, despite having two in the works for years. What’s holding them up?
Relatively strong post-recession employment growth is not a statistical anomaly, though only a small portion of the gain is coming from internet and telecommunications jobs. GDP is underestimated, but it is consistently biased, and the gig and free economies are too small to explain the productivity gap. Rather than blaming statistics, analytical effort is better spent determining the root causes for slow productivity growth.
Risk aversion, high unemployment, growth slowdowns, recessions, and geopolitical crises in key global economies are just a few of the factors holding back global growth. Overall, tighter financial conditions are leading to stock market corrections and a loss of confidence.