Counterparties: The state of the economy, restated

September 27, 2012

Welcome to the Counterparties email. The sign-up page is here, it’s just a matter of checking a box if you’re already registered on the Reuters website. Send suggestions, story tips and complaints to

Are you better off than you were 24 hours ago? The US labor market is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS released revised employment data that shows the US added 386,000 more jobs from January to March than previously thought. That variation, 0.3% of total nonfarm jobs, is exactly average: “the annual benchmark revisions over the last 10 years have averaged plus or minus three-tenths of one percent of total nonfarm employment”. This revision won’t be the last: another will be released in February 2013, covering all of 2012. But as Bill McBride at Calculated Risk notes, the preliminary revision we got today is usually “pretty close to the final benchmark estimate”.

US GDP for the second quarter of 2012 was also restated today. The Commerce Department announced the economy grew at a rate of 1.3% in the second quarter, a downward revision from the previously announced 1.7%, and below the first quarter’s 2%. The single biggest revision was in drought-hit farm inventories, and economists at Morgan Stanley expect agricultural output to “continue to be a drag on growth in the second half” of the year. The bad news, says the WSJ’s Paul Vigna, with a stall-speed economy, “is that it’s exposed, and liable to be knocked over by any sort of exogenous shock” like the euro crisis, or a diplomatic crisis with Iran or China.

Today’s jobs revision was immediately pulled into the narrative of whether or not President Obama can claim net positive job creation since he took office (now, barring further revision, he can). As Jared Bernstein writes, that doesn’t change the fact that “we’re still way behind where we need to be to tighten up the job market”. And the GDP numbers show that growth is “still a slog”. — Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

Why “it’s good to be a mortgage originator right now” – Sober Look

The value of the revolving door: political appointees and the stock market – Vox EU

Tax Arcana
How Romney used the gift tax to avoid millions in taxes with an “I Dig It” trust – Bloomberg
A record 1 in 5 households, and 40% under 35 years old, owe student debt – Pew Social Trends

New Normal
Lending is booming in Cedar Rapids, for some reason – WSJ
“For three years in a row, more people have been convicted of immigration offenses than of any other type of federal crime” – Chris Kirkham

EU Mess
Spain announces 40 billion euros in budget cuts and plans to draw down pension reserves to “cover some treasury needs” – WSJ

Popular Myths
“Meritocracy, at least as normally understood, does not exist and probably cannot exist in a free market” – Stumbling and Mumbling

The United States is way behind the rest of the world in cracking down on high-frequency trading – NYT

North Korea has secretly sold more than 2 tons of gold to China to make up for a currency shortage – China Post

What the new NYT public editor reads – Atlantic Wire
“Social ad units” or no, the Web media economic model is still broken – David Pakman

1,000-plus Nigerian women stranded at the Saudi airport because they weren’t accompanied by men – Raw Story

Bring back Build America Bonds – Bloomberg

“Tech plays a role in structuring” the divide between rich and poor – Alexis Madrigal


Comments are closed.