Chicago and the toddlin’ recovery

It may not get as much attention as the monthly employment report or GDP figures, but the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s gauge of the national economy has a good track record of distinguishing economic expansions from recessions. And it’s suggesting that the U.S. recovery may be wobbling.

Over at the econbrowser blog, economist James Hamilton points us to a recent research paper that examines how accurate the various economic indicators are at telling us when the economy is growing or contracting. The Chicago Fed’s national index was one of the best. And Monday’s report shows it faded in October.

Not only that, but its three-month moving average fell to -0.91 in October from -0.67 in September, declining for the first time in 2009. That drop was especially significant because the Chicago Fed says a move below -0.70 in the three-month moving average following a period of economic expansion indicates an increasing likelihood that a recession has begun.

Of course, the people who are tasked with determining when recessions begin and end haven’t called the latest one over yet. So is this report showing a speed bump on the way to a recovery or something more ominous?  


U.S. state budgets battered by recession

Eighteen months into the worst recession in decades, and the pain of the downturn is reaching into nearly every U.S. state, city and municipality.

With ever more people out of work, consumer spending has dried up, depriving local government of sales tax revenue. The continued housing slump has wiped out real estate transfer taxes, while declining corporate profits have eroded business tax revenue.

From Maine to California, the slump has drained coffers at the very time that the cost of providing jobless benefits and healthcare has risen, straining public finances.