Policy Points

21.10.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on September Producer Prices

September Producer Prices

The seasonally-adjusted prices received by producers of finished goods fell by 0.6 percent in September, according to data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That same month, the prices received by sellers of intermediate goods rose slightly (+0.2 percent), and the prices received by sellers of crude goods fell by 2.1 percent.

At each stage of the production process, price changes were attributable to declines in food and energy prices. When energy and food prices are excluded, producer prices for finished goods fell by 0.1 percent in September. Absent energy and food costs, producer prices rose for both intermediate and crude goods.

Over the past year, producer prices have fallen sharply. Unadjusted prices for finished goods have declined by 4.8 percent, and producer prices for intermediate and crude goods have dropped by 11.7 percent and 31.5 percent, respectively.

The new data offer two insights into the state of the American economy. First, the findings suggest that demand for good and services remains weak. Second, the report indicates that inflation is not currently a threat to the larger economy.

21.10.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on Service Activity in the South Atlantic

Service Activity in the South Atlantic

From the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s September survey of service-sector activity in the South Atlantic (District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia):

Service sector activity remained soft in September, according to the latest survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The ongoing decline in retail sales slowed this month, and shopper traffic was down only slightly compared to a month earlier. In contrast, revenues dropped sharply at services firms. However, survey respondents remained optimistic about demand for their products and services over the next six months.

Service sector activity remained soft in September,
according to the latest survey by the Federal
Reserve Bank of Richmond. The ongoing decline
in retail sales slowed this month, and shopper
traffic was down only slightly compared to a month
earlier. In contrast, revenues dropped sharply at
services firms. However, survey respondents
remained optimistic about demand for their
products and services over the next six months.
20.10.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on Around the Dial – Oct. 20

Around the Dial – Oct. 20

Economic policy reports, blog postings, and media stories of interest:

20.10.2009 Policy Points No Comments

County Data Collection

The Census Bureau recently updated its USA Counties dataset. This collection provides a single source of county-level data related to age, agriculture, ancestry, banking, building permits, business patterns, crime, earnings, education, elections, employment, government, health, households, housing, income, labor force, manufactures, population, poverty, retail trade, social programs, veterans, vital statistics, water use, and wholesale trade.

20.10.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on A New Social Contract

A New Social Contract

The health insurance reform legislation moving through Congress is based on the idea that most working Americans will receive health insurance through their employers. This assumption is consistent with America’s tradition of using tax subsidies to encourage employers to provide certain forms of social insurance.

Yet as a story in The Wall Street Journal notes, more and more employers are abandoning retirement and health insurance benefits, regardless of the tax advantages. The result is a major restructuring of the the nation’s social contract — a restructuring that is altering  radically the ability of working Americans to retire in dignity or afford medical care.

Writes the Journal about the state of employer-sponsored health insurance:

The percentage of employers offering health-care benefits is 60% this year, down from 63% in 2008 and 69% in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In a survey by Hewitt last winter, 19% of large employers said they planned to move away from directly sponsoring health-care benefits over the next five years.
In the meantime, workers’ share of health costs is headed up. For next year, 63% of employers that offer health coverage plan to increase employees’ share of the expense, according to a survey of 1,500 employers by another consulting firm, Mercer.

The percentage of employers offering health-care benefits is 60% this year, down from 63% in 2008 and 69% in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a survey by Hewitt last winter, 19% of large employers said they planned to move away from directly sponsoring health-care benefits over the next five years.

In the meantime, workers’ share of health costs is headed up. For next year, 63% of employers that offer health coverage plan to increase employees’ share of the expense, according to a survey of 1,500 employers by another consulting firm, Mercer.