Caroline Baum, a columnist for Bloomberg, doesn’t buy into the argument that “uncertainty” is the explanation for America’s economic problems.
Which brings me to the subject of uncertainty, the presumed source of all things ailing the U.S. economy. Uncertainty is omnipresent. No one speaks of uncertainty during good times. There was lots of uncertainty in March 2000, when the Nasdaq Composite Index breached 5,000 as investors bought shares of Internet companies with no revenue, no profits and, in at least one case, no known business. No uncertainty back then; just a case of irrational exuberance.
In good times, the word uncertainty rarely appears in policy discussions. In bad times, it’s the default setting. Why not call it by what it really is, which is pessimism? When businesses say they aren’t going to invest because of uncertainty, what they mean is, they don’t think their investments will produce a substantial profit.
For the benefit week ending on January 19, 2013, some 16,175 North Carolinians filed initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits and 113,584 individuals applied for state-funded continuing benefits. Compared to the prior week, there were more initial and more continuing claims. These figures come from data released by the US Department of Labor.
Averaging new and continuing claims over a four-week period — a process that helps adjust for seasonal fluctuations and better illustrates trends — shows that an average of 20,681 initial claims were filed over the previous four weeks, along with an average of 119,625 continuing claims. Compared to the previous four-week period, the average number of initial claims was higher, as was the average number of continuing claims.
One year ago, the four-week average for initial claims stood at 18,083, and the four-week average of continuing claims equaled 131,057.
In recent months covered employment has increased and now exceeds the level recorded a year ago (3.8 million versus 3.7 million). Nevertheless, there are still fewer covered workers than there were in January 2008, which means that payrolls are smaller today than they were five years ago.
Both new and continuing claims appear to have peaked for this cycle, and the four-week averages of new and continuing claims have fallen considerably. Yet continuing claims remain at an elevated level, which suggests that unemployed individuals are finding it difficult to find new positions.
Joseph Stiglitz is not impressed by the global big-wigs who recently gathered in Davos.
While Western leaders talked about a new emphasis on growth and employment, they offered no concrete policies backing these aspirations. In Europe, there was continued emphasis on austerity, with self-congratulations on the progress made so far, and a reaffirmation of resolve to continue along a course that has now plunged Europe as a whole into recession – and the United Kingdom into a triple-dip downturn.
The Employment and Training Administration, a unit of the US Department of Labor, recently released a series of 10-minute podcasts designed to introduce to key types of economic data. Below is a copy of a podcast that explains unemployment data.