Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
President Barack Obama told Americans in his July 19 weekly address that every worker deserves to know that “if you lose your job, your country will help you train for an even better one.” A nice sentiment -- and politically safe. It's just the wrong answer. Those “better jobs” don't exist, and training doesn’t create jobs. Despite all that, every year the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on job training, with little impact.
In 2007, then-candidate Obama visited Janesville, Wis., location of the oldest operating General Motors plant in America. Echoing his current promise to support unemployed Americans through job training, Obama proclaimed, “I believe that, if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.” However, two days before Christmas and just about a month before Obama’s inauguration, the plant stopped production of SUVs, which made up the bulk of what was built there, throwing 5,000 people out of work. This devastated the town, because most residents either worked in the plant or in a business that depended on people working in the plant. Congress paid for a $2-million retraining program, using state community colleges the way the government once used trade schools, a century ago, to teach new immigrants the skills they needed to work at GM.
This time around, however, many laid-off workers who finished their retraining programs became trained unemployed people rather than untrained ones. Having a certificate in “heating and ventilation” or skills in new welding techniques did not automatically lead to a job in those fields. There were already plenty of people out there with such certificates, never mind actual college degrees. Of those who completed some form of training, nearly 40 percent of them did not find work. And those in Janesville who did find work in some field saw their take-home pay drop by 36 percent on average. A look at Craigslist job ads for the town shows one ad for heating and ventilation work, with a requirement of three years of experience. Under “General Labor,” the openings were for janitors, newspaper delivery and things like light manufacturing at $8.50 an hour.
Obama's new call for job training also belies the fact that the government already spends approximately $18 billion a year to administer 47 job-training programs. The actual value of those programs remains unclear. The Government Accountability Office found that only five programs assessed whether people who found jobs did so because of the program and not for some other reason. In addition, the GAO learned that almost all training programs overlap with at least one other training program. “Federal job training sounds like something that should boost the economy,” writes the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards and Daniel J. Murphy in a 2011 report, “but five decades of experience indicate otherwise.”
Rants from TV commentators aside, the market’s going to be keenly focused on Janet Yellen’s congressional testimony today, with a specific eye toward whether the Fed chair moderates her concerns about joblessness, under-employment and the overall dynamism of the labor force that has been left somewhat wanting in this recovery. The June jobs report, where payrolls grew by 288,000, was welcome news even as the economy continues to suffer due to low labor-force participation and weak wage growth.
Inflation figures are starting to show some sense of firming in various areas, for sure, but still not at a point that argues for a sharp move in Fed rates just yet. Overall, a look at Eurodollar futures still suggests the market sees a gradual, very slow uptick in overall rates – the current difference between the June 2015 futures and June 2016 futures are less than a full percentage point – not as low as it was in May of this year, but still lower than peaks seen in March and April 2014 and in the third quarter of 2013, before a run of weak economic figures and comments from Fed officials themselves scared people again into thinking that the markets would never end up seeing another rate hike, like, ever again.
Not signed up for the Counterparties newsletter yet? Click here.
Last week’s jobs report may have capped off the best six-month period since the recovery began, but the long-term unemployment situation is as terrible as ever. Nearly3.1 million Americans have been out of work for six months or longer — a third of all unemployed Americans. This isn’t just a bad business cycle, says Nick Bunker. It has become structural problem in the labor market* (see update below). The Beveridge Curve, which tracks the relationship between the unemployment rate and job vacancies, has shifted outward, meaning there are lots of job vacancies, but more unemployed people than you would have expected had the pre-recession trend continued. There are plenty of jobs out there, Bunker says. Employers just aren’t hiring people to do them.
Catherine Rampell points to new data from NBER and Chicago Fed researchers showing that the average job opening is going unfilled for an average of 25.1 days, the longest vacancy rate since May 2001. She’s got a number of ideas on why this is happening, but she’s convinced that the one thing that’s not causing it is job seekers lacking the skills that employers want. If this were about the skills gap, she says, employers competing for a small pool of skilled applicants would be forced to raise wages — something we haven’t seen recently.
The bond market remains pretty much tethered to the 2.50 percent to 2.60 percent range that's prevailed for the 10-year note for quite some time now, with the primary catalyst being today's release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its most recent meeting. The relevant data that investors are probably paying most attention to - the jobs report last week, the JOLTS jobs survey, shows some more things that is meant to keep the Fed engaged rather than moving toward an imminent increase in rates. The quit rate - the rate at which people leave jobs for others - is still historically a bit on the low side, not at a level that would make the Fed more comfortable that the kind of labor-market dynamism needed for the Fed to shift to raising interest rates. Fact is, the central bank just isn't there yet.
And with that in mind, that means those investors clamoring for higher rates are probably going to continue to see their expectations unmet for a longer period of time, and with sovereign buyers from Europe and Japan wandering outside those halls, there's an ongoing bid in the market that continues to thwart short-sellers who are just waiting for that right moment to bet against the bond market. That's been a lonely trade of late - or rather, a popular trade, just a big loser as trades go.
from Data Dive:
When you say the word start-up, many people think of the wild proliferation of tech companies in Silicon Valley: Stanford grads sitting in a basement with their friends being offered obscene amounts of money for a mobile app that simply sends a one-word message to a user’s contacts. But economically speaking, a startup is any business that’s less than five years old and has fewer than 20 employees. And, tech bubble or not, start-ups in general have not done so well in the wake of the Great Recession.
A new research note out from the San Francisco Fed concludes that “low growth among start-ups at the beginning of the current recovery may have contributed to slow employment growth overall.”
Bank of England rate setters meeting this week should be in cordial agreement that Britain's economy is growing at a decent pace, and that price pressures look mostly in check at the moment.
But when it comes to gauging how quickly slack in the labour market is disappearing – a key question deciding when they should raise interest rates – the surveys look a lot less joined-up.
from Data Dive:
Non-farm payrolls for June were released Thursday, and by most accounts this was a great month for job growth. The economy added 288,000 jobs, way more than the 215,000 that were expected. Reuters has a full live blog of the commentary that came out after the report. Here are some of the best charts from the blog:
Almost every industry expanded this month, and many were at the high end of the range of monthly changes over the last four years.
from Data Dive:
Six years into the recovery, the American jobs situation is still in a rut. The relationship between how many people are looking for a job (the unemployment rate) and how many jobs are available (the jobs opening rate) has historically been predictable. Plotting it out in chart form gives you what is known as the Beveridge Curve, named after the British economist William Beveridge. The idea is that as the number of workers who are looking for a job rises — which to employers means the pool of talent for them to hire from gets bigger — the available jobs get filled and the opening rate goes down.
This is what it has looked like since 2001:
The first thing to notice is that something happened in 2008: the Beveridge Curve shifted to the right and stayed that way. That means employers aren’t hiring as many unemployed people as they should be, according to a pre-2008 view of the world. It is also one of the reasons the economy feels like it is still bad, even though the recession officially ended five years ago.
from Data Dive:
"The scariest jobs chart ever", which Bill McBride at Calculated Risk has been updating month by month for years, is finally ready to be retired.
That’s right — with the 217,000 jobs added in May, the US economy is finally, finally back to the pre-recession employment level.
After the world’s most boring jobs report in history (seriously, misses consensus by 1,000, unemployment and wage growth in-line with expectations, and revisions over the last two months amount to a total decline of 6,000 jobs, which is a pittance), the bond market is catching a bit of a bid again. That shouldn’t be a surprise given the way this market is still taking its cues from the European bond market, which is soaring on what would otherwise be a quiet Friday. (Those of you who read Richard Leong’s story yesterday noting the likely rally in bonds post-jobs would have been all over this – just sayin’.)
It’s not going to be long before Spain’s 10-year yield falls through the U.S. 10-year yield – the spread has narrowed to about 6-7 basis points and at one point was around 3 basis points before the jobs figures. Even though the in-line figures could argue for higher rates, the report doesn’t change the consensus on the economy all that much and allows fixed income to concentrate on supply and relative valuation issues – and those point to yields remaining under pressure. Mark Grant of Southwest Securities lays it out well on a lot of issues in a comment this morning, but very specifically, he points out that “money from Asia and the Middle East is going to come pouring into the American market because of the yields here versus all of Europe. When the French 5 year yield is 304% less than the American one something is going to give and the ECB will not permit that answer to be a higher French yield.”