Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Coronavirus dashboard for July 14: A few US States are containing the coronavirus

 - by New Deal democrat

Headlines for the US:
Total infections: 3,364,704
7 day average: 60,997
Total deaths: 135,615
7 day average: 780

We all know that, taken as a whole, the US is failing abysmally in controlling the coronavirus. At least 13 States most notably including California are “re-closing” at least in part.  In the last week, deaths, which had continued to decline despite the renewed exponential rise in cases in many areas, finally started to rise as well:

But, in view of the announcement yesterday that, for the first time in months, on Sunday New York City did not have even a single death from the coronavirus, I thought I would take a look to see if New York, or any other States, have continued to “crush the curve.” There are a few slivers of good news.

For a benchmark, let’s start by taking a look at Canada and the European Union, in terms of cases (dotted lines) and deaths (solid lines) per week:

Canada has 7.35 cases per million per week; the EU 7.91. Canada has .331 deaths per million; the EU .177.

These are markers of true success against the coronavirus. Do any US States even come close? Only 4: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Hawaii.

Here are the 4 above States compared with Canada (blue) in terms of cases:

And here is the same comparison in terms of deaths:

Over the past 7 days, the numbers of cases and deaths per million respectively are:
ME 14 / .531
NH 16 / .946
VT 11 / 0
HI 22 / .303

Note that Hawaii’s case counts have recently increased. I decided to include them because, as islands, I suspect the State can turn it around quickly.

By comparison, here is how NY compares with Canada in terms of cases per million:

And deaths per million:

NYS still has around 4x the number of both new infections and deaths compared with Canada.

Aside from NY, only 5 other States are swimming against the tide of sharply rising new infections: NJ, CT, RI, MA, and SD. Here is the long term view:

And here is the same data just over the past 4 weeks:

Note RI apparently had a data dump yesterday, accounting for the sharp one day increase.

Bottom line: only the Northeast above the Mason-Dixon Line, and excluding PA, is continuing to have any success containing or crushing the coronavirus. The metro NYC and Boston areas still have work to do to bring their numbers down to that of neighboring Canada.

The rest of the US is on fire.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The 2020 Presidential election nowcasts and forecast: growing evidence for a likely Biden blowout

 - by New Deal democrat

For the past three weeks I have posted a projection of the Electoral College vote based solely on State rather than national polls (since after all that is how the College operates) that have been reported in the last 30 days.

Here’s how it works:
- States where the race is closer than 3% are shown as toss-ups.
- States where the range is between 3% to 5% are light colors.
- States where the range is between 5% and 10% are medium colors.
- States where the candidate is leading by 10% plus are dark colors.

Here is the updated map through July 11:

There are no flips, except that I noticed I had overlooked a poll last month of Nebraska that actually showed a slight Biden lead. In Biden States, Arizona weakened and several others strengthened. In Trump States, a number in the Mississippi valley weakened significantly. And this morning another Texas poll showed a Biden lead, although not enough to move that State out of the “toss-up” range.

As has been the case for the past two weeks, if Biden simply wins the States in which he leads by 5% or more in the polling, he would win the Electoral College, without even winning a single “toss-up” or “lean Biden” State as shown on the map.

Trump continues to have close to his worst polling in the past 2 1/2 years, as shown in Nate Silver’s most current measure of Trump approval:

Although he is a GOP pollster, I think Rasmussen’s measure of strong approval vs. strong disapproval is also very telling. The theory is that those with strong opinions aren’t going to change, so what remains are those with weak opinions. Here is what that looked like for Trump’s first 1 1/2 years:

And here is the same metric for the past 2+ years:

Strong disapprovers are at ~45%, about the worst level in the past two years. Only during the ACA repeal attempts during 2017 did Trump fare significantly worse. It would be extremely difficult for Trump to overcome that disadvantage, especially since late deciders almost always break towards the challenger.

Next, let’s look at some econometric models. First, here is the “Bread and Peace” econometric model, first showing its historical record through 2016 (the creator, Douglas Hobbs, has not made any update for the 2020 election): 

This model measures the change in real disposable personal income per capita, and adds casualties in wars to arrive at its forecast (whether pandemic deaths would be equivalent is completely unknown, but obviously would make a big difference).

Here is what the change in real personal income per capita looks like, first historically through the last recession, and now the past few months:

The number, while not negative, was in the danger zone even before March. Since then, the stimulus checks in April greatly helped this metric for one month, but if June is as poor as May, it will be completely undone.  If pandemic deaths carry any weight at all close to casualties in war, the model forecasts disaster for Trump.

Another model recently put forward by a Fed watcher (sorry, I forgot her name) demonstrated that an increase of 0.4% off its best levels in the unemployment rate in the quarters before an election has historically indicated a loss by the incumbent. Needless to say, this indicator is awful for Trump now:

But all of the above are nowcasts. They change right up until the election with incoming polling and/or economic data.

By contrast, the best *forecast* model I have seen takes Q1 polls, plus the Index of Leading Indicators at the end of the Q1 to predict how the economy will be behaving just before Election Day. So here is an update through May of the LEI:

Even May’s big bounce barely made a dent in the March and April declines. Needless to say, this forecasts a Biden blowout and is not affected by the vicissitudes of polling between now and November. In essence, it is already set in stone. All of this, in turn, was driven by the pandemic.

Which leads me to the following: at this point I think I can be blunt. Trump has about 7 weeks to turn around the pandemic. If Labor Day comes and goes and the pandemic is still raging anywhere near as bad as it is now, Trump is going to lose the popular vote, and lose it badly, making an electoral college victory virtually impossible.

And if so, it is very likely that the Democrats win the Senate as well. In the past week, polling has confirmed a big lead in Arizona, a moderate lead in Maine, and slight leads in Iowa and North Carolina. Even the Alaska Senate race isn’t solidly GOP.

Of course, keeping in mind 2016, Democrats should behave as if Biden, and every House, Senate, and State candidate is running 2% behind, and keep the pedal to the metal.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Weekly Indicators for July 6 - 10 at Seeking Alpha

 - by New Deal democrat

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha. While the forecasts remain inexplicably positive, the nowcast worsened slightly.

As usual, clicking over and reading should bring you up to the moment on the economy, and will also reward me ever so slightly for my work.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Initial and continuing claims, JOLTS show labor market “less awful” improvement continues - for now

 - by New Deal democrat

Weekly initial and continuing jobless claims have been giving the most up-to-date  snapshot of the continuing  economic impacts of the coronavirus on employment. This week continues the trend of slightly improvement (or, more truly, slightly less awful).

Below are initial jobless claims both seasonally adjusted (blue) and non- seasonally adjusted (red). The non-seasonally adjusted number is of added importance since seasonal adjustments should not have more than a trivial effect on the huge real numbers:

There were 1.400 million new claims, 31,000 less than one week ago. After seasonal adjustment this became 1.314 million, 99,000 less than last week’s number. The good news is, this is the smallest weekly decline since the worst reading in April. The bad news is, it is only 250,000 (or 17%) less than five weeks ago. In other words, the improvement is slight and huge second-order impacts in terms of new layoffs continue to spread.

There has been some slight improvement in the trend of continuing claims, which lag by one week, and which after revisions have declined about 15% since late May. This week on a non-seasonally adjusted continuing claims declined by 629,500 to 16.797 million, almost 6 million below their peak of 22.794 million seven weeks ago. After seasonal adjustment they declined 698,000 to 18.062 million, 6.850 million below their peak of 24.912 million seven weeks ago:

In essence, so far the callbacks to work from various sectors “reopening” have outweighed the new layoffs weekly. For the last few weeks, this had looked like it was stalling, but with revisions and this week’s numbers we have continued progress in being “less awful.” 

Now let’s turn to the other employment-focused release from earlier this week, the JOLTS report, which shows both the  hiring and discharges sides of the jobs ledger. Note that this lags by one month, so was for May, which the first month of job gains after the pandemic started, it will better show us how much rehiring has been occurring.

During the expansion, I was focused on the leading vs. lagging parts of this report. With the pandemic, this is out the window. What I am interested in is decomposing hiring vs. firing. In that regard, the below bar graph decomposes this year’s numbers into hires (blue), fires (red) and voluntary quits (green):

While there have been changes in both hires and quits, both of which declined by roughly 1/3 to 1/2 in the two months of greatest impact, the vast majority of the changes has been in the number of people laid off. As shown in the graph below, these nearly sextupled in March, but by May had returned all the way to their baseline:

Interestingly, the number of hires in May was the highest ever recorded in the JOLTS series. This obviously was due to the surge in “rehiring” to reopen. Below I show both the seasonally adjusted (blue) and non-seasonally adjusted (red) numbers:

There was a much larger number of new hires in May than ordinarily would be the case, and so this distorted somewhat the seasonally-adjusted number.

In summary, four full months after the initial shock, the overall damage remains huge, with large continuing new secondary impacts. Since the beginning of May, this has been outweighed by the callbacks to the “reopening” economy. Initial claims indicate that continued through last week.

I am expecting this to reverse, as States that recklessly reopened pay the price with surging infections and hospitalizations. This appears finally to be feeding through into increased deaths. All of which is likely to lead to “re-closing” either by edict, or simply by non-viability with customers simply too afraid to patronize businesses. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Coronavirus dashboard for July 8: deaths in the South and West finally suggest increasing trend

 - by New Deal democrat

Coronavirus death statistics have been plagued recently by State data dumps, where months of deaths have been released on a single day. In the past 2 weeks, both NJ and NY’s such releases had skewed the numbers. As of today, both are out of the 7 day statistics, so I thought I would update again.

One bit of good news, statistics-wise, is that the COVID tracker now has the ability to include hospitalizations (although FL still isn’t fully releasing its numbers). So here are hospitalizations per capita in the 4 US regions:

In the past few weeks, hospitalizations have continued to decline in the Northeast, stayed flat in the Midwest, risen slightly in the West starting 14 days ago, and increased by more than 50% in the South starting 19 days ago.

Has the bad news started to translate into deaths in the South and West? Maybe.

Here are deaths per capita in the Northeast and Midwest:

With the NJ and NY data dumps out of the 7 day average, the Northeast average has now decreased to 2.0 per million. This, believe it or not, still makes the Northeast the worst region, due to NJ (4.0 per million), MA (3.3), and RI (2.6). NY has declined to 1.5 per million, and is no longer even in the top 25 per capita. The jump in the Midwest in the past day is due to - sigh - a data dump by Illinois, which will slightly skew the national average for the next week.

Here are deaths per capita in the South and West:

The big question is, are the increases in the past 2 days the start of a trend? If so, then it would appear that deaths per capita in both the South and West bottomed a little over 2 weeks ago. 

Even so, at 5.5 deaths per million, the worst State, Arizona, still has less than 10% the rate of deaths that NY had (close to 70) at the worst of the outbreak there. God willing, even with all of their reckless mistakes, Florida, Texas, and Arizona hopefully will never get that bad.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Coronavirus dashboard for July 7, 2020: deaths as a *very* lagging statistic

 - by New Deal democrat

Total diagnosed US coronavirus cases: 2,928,418
7 day average: 50,135
Total US coronavirus deaths: 122,915
7 day average: 480

The renewed exponential spread of coronavirus cases is continuing. We will probably be over 3 million cases within 48 hours. Including all of the undiagnosed cases (especially in April and May), probably about 2.5%-3% of the entire US population has been infected by this point.

There is still not enough medical mask production. There is still not a thorough testing program in place. There is still not a significant tracing or isolation protocol in place. There will be none of these until at least January 20, 2021. 

The big paradox remains why deaths have continued to decline, albeit very slowly, even while new cases have skyrocketed for at least the last 3 weeks. A detailed look at the top 10 states for new infections per capita, and comparing them with the Northeast megalopolis, is especially telling.

To begin, here are the 4 regions of the US by new cases per capita:

And here are the same 4 regions by deaths per capita:

Cases have been exploding in the South and West, increasing significantly in the Midwest, and essentially have been flat in the Northeast. Meanwhile deaths have been flat in the South and West, declining in the Midwest, and are still elevated but declining in the Northeast (the last being complicated by data dumps of past cases from both NY and NJ in the past 10 days).

As an aside, comparing the US to the EU as to deaths shows that the US is now where the EU was 2 months ago:

Had most governors had patience for just one more month before reopening, the US would probably be in reasonably good shape.

But to return to my main theme, while reckless reopening in the Confederacy, Arizona, and a few other places together with reckless behavior by the young, leading to a change in disease demographics explains a lot of the continued decline in deaths, it doesn’t explain all of it. The significance here is what has happened - or not happened - in the Northeast.

Here are the top 10 States for new infections:

Eight of these are in the Deep South; the other two are Arizona and Nevada. All of them are showing big increases.

Now here are the top 10 Jurisdictions for deaths:

Due to its data dump 6 days ago, NY temporarily leads the way, but more importantly, note that the highlighted 3 States plus DC remain in the top 10 - despite all having had their infectious peaks over 2 months ago!

In other words - and this is what I want to emphasize - it isn’t just taking a long time for big increases in infections to show up in death rates. It’s also taking a long time for big DECREASES in infections to show up in death rates. On a per capita basis, the Northeast is still leading the pack, even with relatively draconian lockdown policies that were in place for a long time.

Meanwhile, while some of the recklessly reopened States are showing increases in deaths:

Others among the top 10 for new infections, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and (not shown) Louisiana are *not* showing significant increases in infections - and in the case of Georgia an incomprehensible decrease:

Although it is too noisy to graph, when we expand out to the top 25 for new infections that have increased significantly in the past 3 weeks, 10 of them - Idaho, Arkansas, California, Utah, North Carolina, Delaware, Wisconsin, Ohio, Washington State, Nebraska, and Missouri - are still showing flat or even decreasing deaths.

The lag time for new increases in deaths, plus the lag time for low incidence of deaths in the Northeast where cases peaked over 2 months ago, suggests that more is going on than just younger demographics and better medical treatments. The delay in deaths works both ways.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The 2020 Presidential election forecast from State polling: a Biden tsunami threatens to swamp the GOP Senate

 - by New Deal democrat

For the past two weeks I have posted a projection of the Electoral College vote based solely on State rather than national polls (since after all that is how the College operates) that have been reported in the last 30 days.

Here’s how it works:
- States where the race is closer than 3% are shown as toss-ups.
- States where the range is between 3% to 5% are light colors.
- States where the range is between 5% and 10% are medium colors.
- States where the candidate is leading by 10% plus are dark colors.

Here is the updated map as of the 4th of July:

There is one change since last week and it is an important one: by the barest of margins North Carolina has moved from toss-up to lean Biden.

As was the case last week, if Biden were simply win the States in which he leads by 5% or more in the polling, he would win the Electoral College, without even winning a single “toss-up” or “lean Biden” State as shown on the map.

There has been an enormous “reversion to the mean” element about Trump support going all the way back to 2016, so I still expect several of the States of the Confederacy to revert to being pro-Trump.

He always polls his worst when he is not just cruel, but cluelessly incompetent at it. Since he seems to want to run on being anti-Black lives matter, pro-Confederate statues, and pro-coronavirus even as the next tsunami wave is hitting, his present situation certainly qualifies. Here is Nate Silver’s most current measure of Trump approval:

Beyond the Presidency, the turn against Trump appears to be submerging several GOP Senators who had thought their path to election or re-election was easy: 
  • The past 3 polls in Iowa all have Jodi Ernst losing. 
  • Both of the last two polls in Montana show the Democrat Governor Bullock leading in that State’s Senate contest. 
  • Two of the last five polls in Georgia show Democrats leading in the races for one of the two Senate seats up this year. 
  • Most shockingly, two of the last three polls in Kansas (which if memory serves correctly hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in close to 100 years) show Democrat Barbara Bollier leading in that State’s contest as well.

If all these Democrats do win, it will be the first time since 1980 that there has been such a shock to Senate incumbents. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekly Indicators for June 29 - July 3 at Seeking Alpha

 - by New Deal democrat

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

There is a theory of the “wisdom of the crowd.” It refers to a situation where a mass of people, all taking their best guess as to a true fact, are all individually wrong, but averaged together are correct.

As to the economy, presently the “wisdom of the crowd” may be a ghastly, cold-blooded determination that there can be reasonable growth even with millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths on an ongoing basis. Maybe.

As usual, clicking over and reading will bring you virtually up to the moment on the economy, and reward me a little bit for my efforts.

P.S. This coming week will feature only two noteworthy pieces of data: the May JOLTS survey on Tuesday, and jobless claims on Thursday. So I will probably take a day or two off from posting. But I do want to update my map of the Electoral College based on State polling, and the coronavirus dashboard.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Frederick Douglass’s oration on the 4th of July (abridged)

 - by New Deal democrat

The middle portion of Douglass’s famous speech, delivered in 1852 to white abolitionists in Rochester, NY, where Douglass lived at the time, and is buried — “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” — is best known.

But in the first portion he allowed for celebration of the principles enunciated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence: “your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure.”

And in the Concluding portion, he “dr[e]w[ ] encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions” for the future.

In our own moment of critical trial and literal iconoclasm, Douglass’s ability to see the Founding Fathers as 3 dimensional, lauding their accomplishments as well as damning their collusion in evil, and for girding one’s loins to the crisis of the present, with abiding hope for the universality of decency and justice in the future, is particularly inspiring. 

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. 
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable—
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; ... The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. ....
... there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed....
On the 2d of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. ....
Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history—the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.
Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.
From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day—cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too—great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.
They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!
Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.
Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. ....
I leave ... the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. .... 
But, .... The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. ....
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. ....
.... Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, .... You glory in your refinement and your universal education yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation—a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. .... You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth.....
.... I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. ....
.... I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. ....
Now, take the constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery....
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. .... “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Initial and continued claims show stalling progress in rehiring

 - by New Deal democrat

Weekly initial and continuing jobless claims give us the most up-to-date  snapshot of the continuing  economic impacts of the coronavirus on employment. Going on four full months after the initial shock, the overall damage remains huge, with large spreading new secondary impacts. The best that can be said is that the damage is not accelerating - but as is shown below, there is has been negligent progress in the past few weeks.

Here are initial jobless claims both seasonally adjusted (blue) and non- seasonally adjusted (red). The non-seasonally adjusted number is of added importance since seasonal adjustments should not have more than a trivial effect on the huge real numbers:

There were 1.445 million new claims, only 15,000 less than one week ago. After seasonal adjustment this became 1.270 million, “only” 59,000 less than last week’s number. While the trend of the past 45 days of slight declines in new claims continues, this is the smallest weekly decline since the worst reading in April. Further, this objectively continues to show huge second-order impacts continuing to spread.

The same flattening trend is apparent in continuing claims, which lag one week behind. In the past six weeks, both the non-seasonally adjusted number (red), and the less important seasonally adjusted number (blue) have both remained essentially stationary. This week the former rose by 266,400 to 17.921 million, still 4.873 million below its peak of 22.794 million six weeks ago; while the latter rose by 59,000 to 19.290 million, 5.622 million below its peak of 24.912 million reading six weeks ago:

In other words, the spreading new damage shown by the continued huge numbers of new jobless claims is about equal to the callbacks to work from various sectors “reopening.”

The stalled progress of both new and continued claims is apparent in the graph below, showing the percent change week over week in new (blue) and continued (red) claims:

For the last three weeks in initial claims, and the last six in continuing claims, on a percentage basis there has been little change.

Finally, it is interesting to compare this with the payrolls numbers, including yesterday’s jobs report, which currently shows a loss of 14.661 million jobs from peak. This is less than the number of continuing claims alone, which strongly suggests that the jobs report is underestimating the damage done to the jobs market by the pandemic, as shown in the graph below:

Since claims are actual counts by the States vs. a sampled estimate in the jobs report, I am inclined to factor the former.

We’ll get a better look on Tuesday, when we get the JOLTS report, which shows both the  hiring and discharges sides of the jobs ledger. Since this will be for May, the first month of job gains after the pandemic started, it will better show us how much rehiring has been occurring.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

June jobs report: the last hurrah of the wished-for “V-shaped” coronavirus recovery

 - by New Deal democrat

  • 4,800,000 million jobs added. This makes up about 22% of the 22.1 million job losses in March and April.
  • U3 unemployment rate improved 2.2% from 13.3% to 11.1%, compared with the January low of 3.5%.
  • U6 underemployment rate improved 3.2% from 21.2% to 18.0%, compared with the January low of 6.9%.
  • Those on temporary layoff declined 4,778,000 to 10.565 million.
  • Permanent job losers increased by 588,000.
  • April was revised downward by -100,000. May was revised higher by 190,000 respectively, for a net of 90,000 more jobs gained compared with previous reports.
Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession

I am still highlighting these because of their leading nature for the economy overall.  These were uniformly very positive: 
  • the average manufacturing workweek rose 0.5 hours from a downwardly revised 38.7 hours to 39.2 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI and will be a positive.
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 356,000. Manufacturing has still lost 757,000  jobs in the past 4 months, or 6% of the total.
  • construction jobs rose by 158,000. Even so, in the past 4 months 472,000 construction jobs have been lost, or about 6% of the total.
  • Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 19,100. Even so, in the past 4 months there have still been 45,900 lost jobs, or about 5% of the total.
  • temporary jobs rose by 148,900. Since February, there have still been 696,100 jobs lost, or 24% of all temporary help jobs.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less declined by 1.037 million to 2.838 million, compared with April’s total of 14.283 million. This is similar to the “less awful” readings of the weekly initial jobless claims.
  • Professional and business employment rose by 306,000, which is still 1.830 million, or about 8% below its February peak.

Wages of non-managerial workers
  • Average Hourly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: declined $0.23 from $24.97 to $24.74, which is still a gain of over 2.6% in 4 months. This reflects that job losses were primarily among lower wage earners, who have been disproportionately recalled to work.

Aggregate hours and wages:
  • the index of aggregate hours worked for non-managerial workers rose by 4.2%. In the past 4 months combined this has nevertheless fallen by about 11%.
  •  the index of aggregate payrolls for non-managerial workers rose by 3.2%. In the past 4 months combined this has nevertheless fallen by about 8%.  

Other significant data:
  • Full time jobs were responsible for 2.418 million of the gains.
  • Part time jobs were responsible for 2.438 million of the gains.
  • The number of job holders who were part time for economic reasons declined by 1,571 million to 9.062 million. This is still an increase since February of 4.744 million.


The most important fact to know about this report is that it covers the payroll period from May 13 through June 12. During that time initial jobless claims continued to decline strongly, so it was no surprise that this jobs report included a strongly positive headline number.

With only one exception, all of the important internals were also positive. This was a reflection of a broad-based recall to work in many States that “reopened” their economies. Even the decline in average hourly wages was actually a positive, since it reflected lower paid workers being recalled to work.  

The only negative was that the number of permanent job losses increased by over 1/2 million. This tells us that the underlying damage to the economy from the pandemic is spreading out and becoming more long-lasting.

Since June 12 both initial and continuing jobless claims have declined only slightly. More States that recklessly reopened are having to partially shut down businesses like restaurants and bars again. So this report - which shows a total recovery of about 1/3 of the job losses since February - is going to be one of the last hurrahs of the wished-for “V-shaped” recovery from the coronavirus lockdowns. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June data starts out with a bright spot in manufacturing

 - by New Deal democrat

Earlier this week the last of the regional Fed Districts, Dallas, reported their manufacturing indexes for June. The overall picture has been a strong rebound:
Regional Fed New Orders Indexes
(*indicates report this week) 
On a month over month basis, the average is up +36 from -30 to +6
The regional Fed indexes almost always telegraph the direction, and sometimes the amplitude, of the ISM manufacturing index for the entire country. That was certainly the case for June.
This morning the ISM reported that manufacturing in the US rebounded strongly, up +9.5 from a contracting reading of 43.1 to an expanding reading of 52.6. The even more forward-looking new orders subindex rose from a horrible 31.8 to a strongly expansionary 56.4:
This is good news in an important indicator. Unfortunately, whether it will remain that way in the face of renewed restrictions in States that had recklessly reopened is very much open to question.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Coronavirus dashboard for June 29: renewed exponential growth in infections, decline in deaths has stalled

 - by New Deal democrat

Total US infections: 2,549,069,  42,161 in last day
Total US deaths: 125,803,  273 in last day

Here is the regional breakdown of the 7 day average of new cases per capita: 

There is renewed exponential growth in the South and West. The Midwest also is beginning to look bad.

Also, here is some more evidence that, when you recklessly reopen, and the pandemic roars back, customers pull back, thus defeating the entire purpose of “reopening the economy:”

The scientific phrase for this phenomenon is, “Well, duh!”

The “top 10” States for new infections per capita are now dominated by the Confederacy, plus Arizona and Utah:

However, while Arizona now heads the “top 10” jurisdictions for deaths per capita, and Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida have joined the list, the majority is still from the Northeast megalopolis where the death rate, while steeply declining, remains high:

I expect the Northeastern States and DC to drop out of this list over the next 7 to 10 days.

Aside from the situation in the recklessly reopened States, the big issue has been the disconnect between new cases and deaths. The main driver is almost certainly the demographic change from older to younger victims. An important sub-part of that change may be that nursing homes, the “dry tinder” that were first struck by the pandemic, are no longer the epicenter.

One complication in making sense of the data is that NJ had a big data dump of reassigned death rulings earlier last week:

So, the below two graphs take the NYC metro area, including NJ, out of the data, and compare the remaining 47 States plus DC.

Here is the 7 day growth in new cases:

This looks very much like the exponential growth we were seeing back in March.

Now, here is the 7 day change in deaths:

There has been a very slight decline over the past 10 days of the 7 day average.

The change in trajectory of deaths happened roughly one week after the new exponential growth in infections started. Because the young are not totally invulnerable from dying of the disease, I expect the death rate to slowly start rising, pretty much imminently.

One final note. How much did the Black Lives Matter protests affect new cases? Obviously social distancing went out the window, but the protests were outdoors and by all accounts almost all of the protesters wore masks. Since the protests started in Minnesota on May 25, 35 days ago, the effects ought to be apparent in cases by now.

So here is what Minnesota looks like:

New infections continued to decline for 25 days, but have risen slightly in the past 10 days. This suggests, thankfully, that the protests will have little effect on the trajectory of new cases.