A new year, a new day and a flurry of economic and financial predictions. Who are we to buck the trend? Yet, buck the trend we shall. While many news articles claim jobs will appear in 2012 and the economy is on the mend, uh, we don't think so. What we have is America stuck in a Labrea tar pit of bad policy and a never ending middle class head shrink.
We believe there is a statistical shocker coming in February. The BLS will incorporate the 2010 Census data in their population controls and all hell will break lose on the unemployment statistics. This will be the January 2012 unemployment report and Census data is used for the household survey. The household survey is where the unemployment rates are derived.
In terms of actual jobs, it seems the press are busy writing stories about ridiculous interview questions and predicting jobs will return in 2012. A couple of points. Clearly there is no shortage in engineers and computer scientists. Articles about Google interview questions generate massive web traffic. This is astounding considering Google is a tech company and the process is a glorified hazing ritual. If there was a shortage of technical people, no way could a company reject 99.95% of the people who apply.
Second, the labor participation rate. We have the lowest labor participation rate since the 1980's. All it takes for the unemployment rate to tick up are people who have given up looking officially start on the daunting job hunt and are added to the official unemployed count.
Beyond the incorporation of the 2010 Census data showing a much different unemployment rate, job growth will be muddled. We will see a decline in the official unemployment rate but not the great job growth needed to put America back to work.
Residential Real Estate
Most are predicting the housing market will return from the dead. We think maybe the walking dead. Single family housing has been moving sideways, in Zombie land for some time. While the bubble deflation is over, don't expect single family housing to return anytime soon. A primary reason is people are plain broke. We need a 5% unemployment rate for housing to really return.
Ah, woe to us. We are guaranteed more of the same whoever wins the White House. There is a brazen refusal to really enact policy, from trade to jobs to taxes to health care, that actually favors working America, the middle class and isn't just another vacuum suck out of our pockets. Why can't we get sane policy and legislation based on real theory and real statistics? Politicians are bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists, that's why. Expect immigration policy to be a mixture of U.S. lobbyists demands and political group think pandering for election 2012.
In spite of the many reports claiming the economy is on the meld, it's more simply muddling along. GDP so far hasn't even been enough to give the economy a jolt. We have nothing coming down the pike to give us that push to strong growth. Not a manufacturing policy, a hire Americans policy, an increase wages policy, a confrontation of bad trade deals agenda....it's all pretty much D.O.A. for anything to increase U.S. economic growth, including investment. Relying on Americans to go shoppin' is a sad state of affairs, especially since America is pretty much tapped out. Expect more muddling along GDP numbers, 2% or below per quarter, for 2012.
While food stamp usage might decrease, simply because the monetary cut off thresholds are so low, the ranks of the poor and working poor will continue to rise. Why? Most jobs created are crappy jobs. Low paying retail trade, service types of burger flipper jobs cannot enable the middle class to rise again. Without strong growth in manufacturing or any policies favoring working Americans, where would good jobs even come from?
Education costs will continue to soar and people trying to get a 4 year degree will increase their protests to no avail. Many will question the great university certification process. A ticket to a job costs an obscene amount of money, yet that degree, vs. actual learning, are diverging. This is what happens when education turns into a profit process of manufacturing heads.
If you're waiting for that dramatic Economic Armageddon crisis coming from Europe, give up now. Expect to see more mini-crises, followed by summits, empty announcements and back room deals. Periods of market swings and volatility will be followed by calm, but it's all pretty much a rigged game. Of course the crisis is still there, just more sweeping it under the rug. Yes, Europe will officially be marked as in a recession. But then, the United States has been said to be in a depression.
Expect no criminal prosecutions of MF global or white collar crime generally. We'll scream from the rooftops bankers got away with murder but it's clear the U.S. Justice system is rigged to who you know versus what you did.
In spite of the never ending claims that somehow China is going to crash and burn, mainly over their own real estate bubble, it's not going to happen. Mercantile China will make up the difference through trade and get completely away with it to boot. Expect more record trade deficits with China. Nothing is stopping China, especially the United States.
Oil, Gold, Speculation and Commodities
Expect a roller coaster ride on gold, oil and commodities generally. It's a given the U.S. will see a major rise in gas prices for 2012. Iran is doing the nuclear nasty, including threats to the oil supply by shutting down the Strait of Hormuz. Yet speculators and global demand fluctuations will affect all of these prices. Gold bugs are out in force and when that happens, along with the death of the Euro predictions, the only guarantee is volatility.
Budgets and Austerity
Expect more attempts to strip the U.S. middle class of any social benefits under the guise of deficit reductions. Now we have a law which allows U.S. citizens to be detained without trial. Additionally they are attempting to pass another law which can shut down websites and media outlets like this one. Oh yeah, the Defense department just got $662 billion. So while you cannot get health care or retirement, we'll have plenty of military style technology and funds to lock people up.
The Long Slow Dribble to 3rd World Status
Expect the United States to lose further in global economic competitiveness and world economic domination. With a Congress who can only pass policy and bills written by corporate lobbyists and a group of multinational corporations not giving a rats ass about America, the windows of opportunities for Asia to economically supplant the United States are in full force. While America pours trillions into being the world's cop, our government seems to have no qualms about giving away large chucks of our economic prosperity as token gifts, all at the slightest hint of some desired foreign policy agenda which never really materializes.
While these predictions are muddling along in the mud being slowly drowned in bad policy economic quicksand, remember, you can speak out and pipe up. It's up to the people to try to change the forecast. With that, let us just end with Happy New Year!