Jobs Are Good!

Good news! The economy added 313k jobs in February!

Like all news, we need some kind of reality check first. Did it really? The long and short of it is that, as always, the ADP employment report is less noisy and thus more accurate. It had a gain of 263k jobs in February, which is probably the right number. Still very good news all around.

But is good news actually bad news? Along with the jobs report we have the increase in wages, which stands at a modest 2.6% over the last year. Does that mean inflation is tamed? We will see what the markets think.

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A Big Week

We have in front of us a big week. This may determine the course of the next year or so in the stock market, the economy, and in politics.

A lot is about to happen. Let’s run it down, day by day.

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Redefining Work

A busy day calls for a repeat. This piece from two years ago demands a revisit in light of the potential for inflation now that we are approaching full employment and wages are indeed rising.

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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ICE’ing Fresh Produce

Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were up in 2017, but not as dramatically as you might think. What has increased is the visibility of these arrests and the fear that they bring. It is generally believed, without only scant evidence, that undocumented immigrants are leaving the US in large numbers. This would continue a downward trend which started in 2007.

Some people might cheer this action, but as a whole the economy probably isn’t. Undocumented workers do jobs that no one else wants to, for the most part. Their absence means that work is not being done and wages are rising rapidly in areas that have depended on cheap labor for years. There may be signs that this is accelerating and will ultimately spark a high rate of inflation and even shortages.

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Taxing Times

If you believe that tax cuts create jobs and growth, you’re not alone. Almost, but not quite. Even those who would benefit the most from the proposed tax bill aren’t willing to go that far.

This puts the Republicans in the Senate in a terrible bind. They can pass the tax bill which came over from the House, potentially angering their constituents, or they can stop it, angering their donors. They also have the choice between raising the deficit or having a record of getting just about nothing accomplished.

How bad is it for Republicans, already worried about 2018? It’s so bad it’s worse than the Tax Bill itself.

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The Storms Behind, The Storms Ahead

How many disasters can we take at once? The short answer is that while the US is continuing to rebound nicely as the economy restructures, it’s still a very delicate process. Unemployment is low in much of the nation, or at least a lot lower than we have seen for a long time. But the process is uneven, bypassing rural areas and older workers unable or unwilling to essentially start over with entirely new careers.

Upsets like major storms are enough to put the whole process in jeopardy, especially when there are two right in a row. This should be the year when everything changes, but it hasn’t been working very well. A lack of leadership and a general sense of drift isn’t helping us take off. The storms? Big enough for a solid recession, without a doubt.

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Never-Ending Sequels

The announcement has rolled through Wisconsin. $3 billion in aid will land a total of 13,00 jobs somewhere around Kenosha. Or maybe less. Or maybe it won’t happen at all, like past promises. But it’s a great deal, one that will create jobs.

It’s hard to say exactly what the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer is going to do given how quickly the breathless announcement came out. What matters is that it had to be announced because it’s not actually about jobs or anything tangible. All of this is just a very expensive form of political theater, allbeit with stakes lower than last week’s show. Government is here to fix the economy and provide jobs, right? So here ya go.

Like many sequels dished up by Hollywood this is a must-see summer thriller. It’s following a well established formula that everyone loves. And like those movies, it begs the question – where did this come from?

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