Felix Salmon

from Ben Walsh:

The opportunity cost of buying iPhones and Cronuts

Quartz’s Ritchie King did some excellent reporting this morning, producing the infographic of the day: “The line for new iPhones vs the line for cronuts”. The line for new iPhones is 250 meters, or 92% longer than the line for the iPhone.

Jobs: The summer’s over

If you wanted to engineer the strongest possible recovery in the US economy, you would try to create two things. First, and most important, you would want robust jobs growth, with employers adding positions, the unemployed — and especially the long-term unemployed — finding new jobs, and the proportion of Americans with jobs rising steadily. Secondly, you would want to introduce errors into the monthly jobs report. You would try to make jobs growth seem weaker than it really was, and unemployment higher. By doing that, you would keep monetary policy — and market expectations for future monetary policy — as accommodative as possible. That in turn would keep both short-term and long-term rates low, which would provide extra fuel for the recovery.

Why the internet is perfect for price discrimination

Price discrimination is one of those concepts that only an economist could love. But the theory is clear: the more that a vendor can discriminate according to willingness to pay, the more value that vendor can add. Rory Sutherland uses air travel as an example: having a mix of classes allows price-sensitive people to pay low fares, while the rich have a large number of flights to choose from. On top of that, he could have added, airlines are extremely good at exercising price discrimination within classes, so that two people receiving identical service might be thousands of dollars apart in the amount they paid for their tickets.

In praise of across-the-board bonuses

Quentin Fottrell has a great headline today: “25% of firms give bonuses for incompetence”. Which is shocking — but not in the way that Fottrell intends. Because it’s not really incompetence which is being rewarded here. Instead, it’s simply employees getting a bonus when their employer does well enough to be able to afford to give out such a thing.

The minimum-wage stimulus

Nick Hanauer has a good idea today: raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The minimum-wage intervention would kill a lot of birds with one stone: it’s a win-win-win-win-win-win.

Understanding the painfully slow jobs recovery

Today’s jobs report was a solid one, and shows that the recovery, while not exactly strong, is at least not slowing down: Neil Irwin calls it “amazingly consistent”. Whether you look at the past 1 month, 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months, you’ll see the same thing: average payrolls growth of roughly 170,000 jobs per month. That’s not enough to bring unemployment down very quickly, given the natural growth in the workforce. But unemployment is coming down slowly. And at the rate we’re going, at some point in the second half of 2014 we should see total payrolls reach their pre-crisis levels, and the headline unemployment rate hit the key 6.5% level.

The systemic plight of labor

blodget.png

It’s May Day, and Henry Blodget is celebrating — if that’s the right word — with three charts, of which the most germane is the one above. It shows total US wages as a proportion of total US GDP — a number which continues to hit all-time lows. Blodget also puts up the converse chart — corporate profits as a percentage of GDP. That line, you won’t be surprised to hear, is hitting new all-time highs. He’s clear about how destructive these trends are:

Chart of the day, reverse-causality edition

This chart comes from Arindrajit Dube, who has a fantastic post chez Rortybomb on whether high debt causes lower growth or whether it’s the other way around. What you’re looking at is the famous Reinhart-Rogoff dataset, as made available by their critics (and Dube’s colleagues), Herndon, Ash and Pollin. Reinhart and Rogoff are the poster children for the statement that high debt loads cause lower growth, especially once those debt loads exceed 90%. But do they?

Why poor people pay more bribes than rich people

Azam Ahmed has a report from Kabul’s ‘Car Guantánamo’ today:

Behind these walls are thousands of cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and even bicycles, lined up in vehicular purgatory after falling afoul of the Kabul traffic police. Things that have landed cars in the slammer: illegal left turns, parking violations, involvement in fender-benders and, perhaps most egregious, failure to pay a bribe.