“There are no signs of recession. Employment growth is strong. Jobless claims are low and the stock market is up.” 

This is heard almost daily from the media mainstream pablum.

The problem with a majority of the “analysis” done today is that it is primarily short-sighted and lazy, produced more for driving views and selling advertising rather than actually helping investors.

For example:

“The economy is currently growing at more than 2% annualized with current estimates near 2% as well.”

If you are growing at 2%, how could you have a recession anytime soon?

Let’s take a look at the data below of real economic growth rates:

  • January 1980:  1.43%
  • July 1981: 4.39%
  • July 1990:1.73%
  • March 2001: 2.30%
  • December 2007:  1.87%
  • If you look at each of those dates, the economy was clearly growing. But each of those dates is the growth rate of the economy immediately prior to the onset of a recession.

    You will remember that during the entirety of 2007, the majority of the media, analyst, and economic community were proclaiming continued economic growth into the foreseeable future as there was “no sign of recession.”

    I myself was rather brutally chastised in December of 2007 when I wrote that:

    “We are now either in, or about to be in, the worst recession since the ‘Great Depression.’”

    Of course, a full year later, after the annual data revisions had been released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the recession was officially revealed. Unfortunately, by then it was far too late to matter.

    It is here the mainstream media should have learned their lesson. But unfortunately, they didn’t.

    The chart below shows the S&P 500 index with recessions and when the National Bureau of Economic Research dated the start of the recession.

    There are three lessons that should be learned from this:

  • The economic “number” reported today will not be the same when it is revised in the future.
  • The trend and deviation of the data are far more important than the number itself.
  • “Record” highs and lows are records for a reason as they denote historical turning points in the data.
  • For example, the level of jobless claims is one data series currently being touted as a clear example of why there is “no recession” in sight. As shown below, there is little argument that the data currently appears extremely “bullish” for the economy.

    However, if we step back to a longer picture we find that such levels of jobless claims have historically noted the peak of economic growth and warned of a pending recession.

    This makes complete sense as “jobless claims” fall to low levels when companies 
    “hoard existing labor” to meet current levels of demand. In other words, companies reach a point of efficiency where they are no longer terminating individuals to align production to aggregate demand. Therefore, jobless claims naturally fall.

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