Sunday, August 4, 2013

The economy is worse than the lower unemployment rate suggests

Wonkblog/ Ezra Klein @ WaPo:

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
unemployment vs share

The core issue here is that the unemployment rate only counts people actively looking for work. That means there are two ways to leave the ranks of the unemployed. One way — the good way — is to get a job. The other way is to stop looking for work, either because you’ve retired, or become discouraged, or begun working off the books.

The yellow line on the left shows the official unemployment rate since 2008. It’s fallen from over 10 percent to under 8 percent. But the red line on the right shows the actual employment rate — that is, the percentage of working-age adults with jobs. What should scare you is that the red line has barely budged.

At the beginning of 2007, the employment rate was 63.3 percent, and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent. By the end of 2009 — so, after the worst of the recession — it had fallen to 58.3 percent, and unemployment was up to 9.9 percent. Today, it’s 58.7 percent, even though unemployment has fallen to 7.6 percent. That means a lot of the people who’ve left the rolls of the unemployed haven’t gotten a new job. They’ve just left the labor force altogether.

Some of that’s natural. The population is aging, and the labor force was expected to shrink. But it wasn’t expected to shrink this much. The economy is a lot worse than a glance at the unemployment rate suggests. And instead of doing anything to help those people get back to work, Washington canceled the payroll tax cut, permitted sequestration to go into effect, and is now arguing about whether to shut down the federal government — and possibly breach the debt ceiling — in the fall.

"Sex, Money & Gravitas"

 Krugman @ NYTs:
Can a woman effectively run the Federal Reserve? That shouldn’t even be a question. And Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Fed’s Board of Governors, isn’t just up to the job; by any objective standard, she’s the best-qualified person in America to take over when Ben Bernanke steps down as chairman.

Yet there are not one but two sexist campaigns under way against Ms. Yellen. One is a whisper campaign whose sexism is implicit, while the other involves raw misogyny. And both campaigns manage to combine sexism with very bad economic analysis. 

Let’s start with the more extreme, open campaign. Last week, The New York Sun published an editorial attacking Ms. Yellen titled “The Female Dollar.” The editorial took it for granted that the Fed has been following disastrously inflationary monetary policies for years, even though actual inflation is at a 50-year low. And it warned that things would get even worse if the dollar were to become merely “gender-backed.” I am not making this up. 

True, The Sun is a marginal publication, with strong gold-bug tendencies, and nobody would pay much attention if the rest of the right had ignored or distanced itself from that editorial. In fact, however, The Wall Street Journal immediately followed up with its own editorial along the same lines, in the course of which it approvingly quoted The Sun piece, female dollar and all. 

The other campaign against Ms. Yellen has been subtler, involving repeated suggestions — almost always off the record — that she lacks the “gravitas” to lead the Fed. What does that mean? Well, suppose we were talking about a man with Ms. Yellen’s credentials: distinguished academic work, leader of the Council of Economic Advisers, six years as president of the San Francisco Fed, a record of working effectively with colleagues at the Board of Governors. Would anyone suggest that a man with those credentials was somehow unqualified for office? 

Sorry, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that gravitas, in this context, mainly means possessing a Y chromosome. 

Both anti-Yellen campaigns, then, involve unmistakable sexism, and should be condemned for that reason. As it happens, however, both campaigns have another problem, too: They’re based on bad economic analysis.