A Spate Of Bad Economic News

This was a good morning not to get out of bed. All that euphoria about being out of the depression woods got tempered a bit by a good dose of ugly financial news.


The DOL reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance were up 4,000 last week to 558,000. Of more concern, the four-week moving average increased 8,500 to 565,000. This breaks the down trend in claims but they are still 93,750 below the peak.

The WSJ Real Time Economics blog reports that mass layoffs were still widespread in the second quarter.

Employers engaged in 2,994 mass layoffs last quarter, the Labor Department said Wednesday, taking 534,881 workers off the job. That’s more than 70% higher than the 1,756 mass layoff events in the same period last year, as the economy continued to weaken through the end of 2008 and into the beginning of this year.

Only 38% of the firms that engaged in mass layoffs said they expect to hire back some of the workers. Earlier this year 51% said they planned to recall some of those laid off.

And just to round out this sunny collection, the Kansas City Fed is out with a paper that suggests it could take a decade to get unemployment down to the 6% range. The authors of the report don’t see a recovery that typically follows a recession. They point to the lingering effects of the credit crisis as the reason for the long recovery period. One has to wonder how many mini-recessions we might have in that decade of recovery.

Retail Sales

This was a big surprise. Most economists and analysts expected to see an increase in retail sales driven by “cash for clunkers.” Indeed, car sales increased nicely by 2.4% but the consumer cut back elsewhere. Overall, retail sales were down 0.1% for July and off 8.3% year-over-year. If you throw out car sales, retail sales were down 0.6%.

I think it’s fair to say that the consumer has its pocketbook snapped shut. They’re either rebuilding balance sheets of they are lucky enough to have jobs or hanging on by their fingertips. I’m beginning to think that it may be more of the latter than we suppose.

From Jake at EconomPicData.com, here is a graphic representation of sales by category.


Realty Trac reported that foreclosures rose 7% from June to July and are up 32% YOY. There were 360,149 foreclosure filings in July or one for every 355 houses in the country. Nevada came in first followed by Arizona and California.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that we might be seeing the foreclosure pig work its way through the python and that it didn’t appear that there was more food going in the snake’s mouth. I think I might have been wrong. It seems as if we aren’t as far through the process as I thought.

So there you have it. You can’t spin these numbers, they’re just plain dismal.

more: here (Housing Wire-Foreclosures) and here NYT (Retail Sales) and here (WSJ Economists Reactions To Retail Sales)

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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