Economic Confidence and Your Plans for the Rest of the Year

by Mark Schniepp
April 2017

Consumer Confidence Jumped Sharply in March

This was a biggie. Confidence SOARED in March. We are now at the highest reading of consumer confidence in the economy since 2000. The highest in 17 long years.

The continued strength in consumer sentiment has been due to optimistic views on three critical components: (1) higher incomes and wealth, (2) more favorable job prospects, and (3) low inflation expectations.

And of course, the stock market is at or near record highs and home prices have rebounded sharply and have eclipsed the previous real estate bubble peaks of 2006 in many U.S. markets

Certainly enough, we are in a full employment economy, wages are now rising more than 3 percent year over year, and inflation remains well under 3 percent.

The Labor Market appears to be in the best condition in a generation: the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent and 98,000 more jobs were created in March.

And I’m going to get comments from all the naysayers who point to the U-6 unemployment rate or the labor force participation rate and pessimistically but erroneously site the high rate of discouraged workers in the economy because as they will claim: job prospects are not that great.

This is bull.

While SOME people cannot find employment in their IDEAL job, or their career job, it’s partly because time and/or technology has passed them by. We no longer manufacture or mine certain products anymore. And technology has eliminated many positions, even skilled ones.

When we think of the discouraged worker, what comes to mind is the image of a 56 year old man with obsolete skills who used to make $120,000 in 2007 and now is employed part time at a $65,000 salary or, has dropped completely out of the labor force.

But this vision or anything like it is unsupported by real data.

 

The 55 and over age group in the labor force happens to be the ONLY age group that has actually increased their workforce participation rate since 2007. This age group is more employed than ever, since records have been kept.

It’s the millennial generation that is having the more difficult time obtaining employment, and this is only true if they have not adequately prepared with a college degree or a skill that is needed in today’s workforce.

There are millions of job openings right now that are unfilled. The unemployment rate is full, wages are rising, and consumers are generally quite optimistic about their economic prospects over the next 6 months.

Your Plan for the Rest of 2017

Because you are fully employed, your income is rising, and you feel so confident about the economy, you need to plan the rest of your year out accordingly:

Travel. The exchange rate is just too favorable to pass up this opportunity. Asia, Mexico, or Europe. They’re cheap. Choose today and go.

Ask your employer for a raise. Skilled labor is in short supply. If you have any skills, you’ll be considered nearly indispensable and given a raise. If not, you’ll be fired. Here’s where you find out. Good luck.

Buy a car. Dealer incentives are everywhere. And gas is cheap. Pull the trigger. You deserve an upgrade. Check the deals at Costco first.

Rebalance you portfolio. The equity markets are at or close to all time highs. If you haven’t made any changes to your portfolio in the last year or 18 months, your asset allocation has likely changed so it deserves some new attention. Investors who periodically rebalance their portfolios get better returns than those who don’t.


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The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Some Indicators Worth Mentioning

by Mark Schniepp
March 2017

Job Openings

The latest information on job openings outstanding in the U.S. economy indicates that the labor market remains very tight with high job availability. Regionally, job openings are the highest in the western states, and lowest in the northeast. Job openings in the STEM fields take twice as long to fill, due to a dearth of candidates meeting these qualifications.

Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index jumped another 3 points in February to 114.8, the highest level since July 2001. Confidence has strengthened considerably, building on its sharp gains in November and December.
Consumers are optimistic about their present and future conditions pertaining to the economy. They like their prospects for employment, income, and spending. Certainly enough, the unemployment rate remains low, wages are rising, the stock market is near record levels, and inflation and interest rates remain low.

Retail sales jumped in January, with strong growth for sporting goods, hobby stores, electronics and appliances.

Oil Prices

Oil prices are falling again. Over the last week, prices have tumbled about 5 dollars per barrel, the largest drop in 4 months. This will ultimately translate into lower gasoline prices which have recently spiked up to an average price of $3.01 in California. Despite OPEC’s effort to restrict crude oil supply in the world, U.S. inventories are rising and drilling activity remains optimistic.

Existing Home Sales

In January, sales rebounded over 3 percent, reflecting rising demand for homes in the nation. Sales in California rose two percent in January and have increased 5 percent since January 2016. The market for existing homes remains extraordinarily tight. The average number of months of supply continues to decline, to just 3.7 months. Normal is between 5 and 6. Consequently, home prices continue to rise. Nationwide, the median selling value rose 7.1 percent year over year in January. In California, the median price has risen 4.8 percent.

The most expensive areas in the state continue to be San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. The lowest priced area is Kern County on a price per square foot basis.

Passengers at SFO and LAX

Total passenger enplanements and deplanements are at all time record levels at both San Francisco International and Los Angeles International Airports. Ditto John Wayne, Sacramento International and Lindbergh Field.

Passenger airline traffic jumped 8 percent in 2016 at LAX, the fastest rate of growth since 2004. More than 25 percent of all LAX passengers are international.
The travel industry has experienced a series of renaissance years during this economic expansion. Both vacation and business travel is soaring in California. Transient lodging occupancy is at its highest level ever recorded.

A strengthening U.S. dollar is likely to push international travel to record levels this year, with principal destinations being Europe, Mexico, and Asia. So start planning early.

 


 

Upcoming Conference

Later this month we will be speaking at the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation’s annual Economic Forecast, where we will present our outlook for California and the Santa Clarita Valley.
March 30, 2017
Hyatt Valencia
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The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

The Trump Rally: Is it Fake or Real?

by Mark Schniepp
February, 2017

All Market Indices at Record Highs

The markets continue to set new record highs, week after week. This all started the day after the presidential election last November. The upward surge has been labeled the Trump Rally. The rally in stock prices essentially doubled the returns on the S&P and Dow Jones industrial averages for calendar 2016, and those returns keep rising through the first 40 days in 2017.

 

 

Are we setting ourselves up for a major correction in valuations or is this rally real and warranted by fundamentals?

The fundamentals would largely be the anticipation of lower taxes and regulatory reforms promised by Trump. The 3 month rally is being driven by the enthusiasm for the president’s agenda which is expected to accelerate GDP growth and stock market earnings growth. Or is it? Alternatively, it could simply be that the market appreciates how the economy is performing right now.

All major economic indicators are rising: manufacturing and industrial production, car sales, home sales, new housing starts, and personal income. Employment is at or very close to the full employment level. Consumer confidence is currently peaking at the highest levels recorded since 2004.

Already to date, FactSet[1] has reported that 67 percent of S&P 500 companies have turned in better-than-expected earnings per share in recent reports. These fundamentals are more convincing than the anticipation of Trump policies which have the potential to produce more growth. However, the promise and the subsequent delivery of corporate tax cuts will boost earnings per share significantly when they become effective.

Offsets

Restrictions on trade and restrictions on immigration represent offsets because they could potentially produce negative effects on economic growth. To what extent there will be restrictions imposed on say China and/or Mexico is both unknown and unlikely.

Furthermore, higher interest rates act as a brake on economic growth and the Fed has stated that three more rate hikes are likely in both 2017 and 2018. While it is true that interest rates still remain historically low, higher rates are likely to impact investment decisions at least at the margin. And investment decisions include the purchase of homes, office buildings, vehicles, and business equipment.

Correction

Certainly a pull-back or even a stock market correction to the current bull market would not be extraordinary. But since they can’t be predicted, why worry? A pull-back allows the market to consolidate before moving to higher highs. There have been a number of corrections over the last 8 years and all have ultimately led to higher stock valuations.

What would cause it? Typically an event creates some sort of panicked selling. Today, it could be a series of missed expectations on earnings, negative news out of Europe or China, or a political event that lends new uncertainty to the markets.

Corrections occur during expansionary phases, typically when the economy is upbeat, like now. Remember, the stock market is a leading indicator of growth and if the market gets too ahead of itself, it must self-correct to align with the economy and reasonable expectations. We may see some of that in the months ahead.

But for now, some people believe that the rally has only just begun…

——————-
[1]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FactSet


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March 30, 2017
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The 2017 California Economic Outlook: Clear and sunny for now, but resource limitations are a growing probability…

by Mark Schniepp
January 2017

Happy New Year

The financial markets finished the year with double digit returns for calendar 2017 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average barely missed hitting the 20,000 mark on Tuesday, December 27. Currently (January 4th), it is only about 32 points from its all time record high.

Bond prices appear to have stabilized for the moment, hovering around 2.5 percent for the 10 year Treasury and fixed mortgage rates are at 4.2 percent. The price of crude oil (and therefore gasoline) also appears stable at this writing.

We’ve reached the full employment level in the labor force, consumers are feeling very good today and about the coming year, and conditions for business expansion remain favorable. Depending on how fast the new Trump administration and Congress act, economic growth could attain its highest level of the current cycle in 2017.

Changes to Expect

The president elect will inherit an economy that is fundamentally strong. With very few layoffs and with record numbers of open job positions, it would take a severe shock to derail the current economy.

Significant changes in policy may be forthcoming, such as tax law, public spending on defense and homeland security, trade and immigration policy, and regulation.

We expect the Trump administration to implement an expansionary fiscal policy of deficit-financed tax cuts and greater government spending this year. So expect higher deficits.

The tax cuts will affect both corporations and households and are expected to be sizeable.

Higher stock prices are a clear plus for growth, through the wealth effect on consumer spending. Since the election and the run-up of stock prices, households holding stock are now worth about $1 trillion more. To the extent the market does not falter, that should produce more spending which will increase the rate of economic growth this year and next.

With bond rates rising, so are the myriad of interest rates. Higher rates of interest and inflation are in the base case scenario for 2017. That means that changes in these rates will not surprise the financial markets so no meltdown is expected.

The California Economy in 2017

You can expect an economy that looks much like it did in 2016 but with more jobs openings, more pressure to raise salaries and hourly rates of pay, and technology sectors that remain vibrant. This is because the world economy is growing faster again and there is rising demand for technology services and microprocessors.

Job creation is likely to be lower, simply because we are already running at full employment, so recruitment of workers will be difficult and more expensive.

The retail industry should have a banner year. Rates of retail real estate utilization are already low and sales remain moderate to strong depending on the region. With record levels of population, employment, and income, greater levels of spending on goods and services is inevitable.

The visitor industry is not expected to slow much despite the strengthening U.S. dollar. Some slowing has been noticed in a few areas of the State, including Santa Barbara. However, more domestic demand for California vacations will occur in 2017, and much of this will offset the reduction in foreign visitors who are now finding California (and the rest of the U.S.) too expensive.

If immigration laws are tightened and undocumented workers are deported, then the state’s agricultural, construction, and hospitality sectors will experience labor shortages. This will prompt higher wages and salaries and higher rates of inflation in California.

Technology industries are running strong and this is a principal reason that California has outpaced the nation in economic growth. Despite Trumpian rhetoric about bringing jobs back from the Pacific Rim to the U.S., there is likely to be more job creation abroad because tech companies cannot hire enough STEM educated workers here.

Housing will be impacted by higher rates throughout the U.S. but disproportionately in California. Why? Because higher mortgage rates drive monthly payments up by more on higher valued homes. And California has a higher share of higher valued homes than elsewhere. Also, less development of new housing in coastal areas will inhibit the growth of supply. If supply growth does not keep up with demand growth, prices rise. Coastal communities, including the Bay Area, are likely to experience fewer existing home sales in 2017 and higher selling prices.

 


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The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Sharp Moves Upward Since the Election… And What This Means to You

by Mark Schniepp,
December 2016

What’s moving upward?

  • Expectations of growth in 2017
  • The stock market
  • Interest rates
  • Inflation
  • Consumer confidence
  • The dollar

Why?

Irrational exuberance or eager anticipation of a rebounding U.S. economy unshackled from over-burdensome regulations, high corporate taxes and too-timid fiscal policy.

Trump and GOP congressional leaders share goals of cutting taxes and easing regulations, which would boost business investment. Most economists believe tax cuts, especially if not accompanied by spending reductions, would produce a short-term boost to economic growth.

Moreover, when and if it does occur, Trump’s proposals to increase infrastructure spending would lead to a surge in construction employment and income, and additional economic stimulus for all those sectors that support construction.

The forecast for growthStock_Market.xls

Economists marked up their growth forecasts for the U.S. economy as soon as Trump prevailed on November 9. The economy will expand between 2 and 3 percent in 2017—maybe even as high as 4 percent—and 2.5 percent in 2018.

The risk of recession in 2017 was already low, but it’s been reduced even further now.

energy-indexFinancial market rally

The market is celebrating the end of fiscal austerity. Equity investors have been betting that Donald Trump will live up to his campaign promises to boost government spending, cut taxes and lighten up on regulation. Since the election, all the major indices have been hitting record highs. The U.S. market rose last week recording very strong gains a full month after the election. The S&P 500 has soared 5.6 percent since November 8th. Financial and energy stocks have rallied sharply.

Interest rate spike

Rates are increasing because the economy is both doing better today and is expected to accelerate in 2017. The markets were already factoring in an increase in rates by the Federal Reserve Board before the election. Remember that long-term rates do not necessarily rise in reaction to the Federal Reserve moving short-term rates upward, but the expectation that the economy will accelerate in 2017 is readjusting the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bond, especially under a Trump presidency where higher growth is anticipated. Rates are still very low by historical standards – and they are not likely to move sharply higher in 2017. The forecast has rates rising to 2.8 percent in 2017 and 3.5 percent in 2018.

Run away inflation?

Year to date, inflation is averaging 1.1 percent nationwide and 1.9 percent in Southern California. The outlook for inflation was already higher for 2017 and 2018, despite which presidential candidate won. Full employment economies and long expansions typically produce strains on existing resources causing their prices to rise. With a greater fiscal stimulus proposed by Trump, the federal deficit is likely to rise and that is pushing interest rates, the dollar, and ultimately inflation even higher.

Recent forecasts have inflation moving to 2.4 percent in 2017 and between 2.7 and 3.3 percent in 2018. This would be the first stretch of sustained inflation above 2 percent since 2011-2012 but I’d hardly consider it runaway inflation.

A leap in consumer confidence

US Monthly Indicators-D.xlsThe Conference Board’s confidence reading for November was the highest in 9 1/2 years. The preliminary December report from the University of Michigan climbed sharply as well, rising to the highest level since December 2006. Consumers expect a positive impact of new economic policies following Donald Trump’s election. Furthermore, consumers feel more secure about the economy today and over the next 6 months then they have in years, largely because the labor market is at full employment, the stock market is at record highs, and incomes are rising.

The dollar gains against the Euro

The dollar has been rising sharply since Trump won the election on November 8, which triggered the meaningful sell-off in U.S. Treasuries in tandem with the soaring value of the dollar.

The speculation is that a Trump presidency will mean wider budget deficits and more inflation.

peso-to-dollarOn December 9, the Euro fell to less than 1.06 in value against the dollar, the lowest level in 14 years. The dollar has rallied against most emerging market currencies and especially the Mexican peso, which has declined 52 percent in value (against our dollar) over the last two years.

The risk of a trade war between the U.S. and China and perhaps between the U.S. and Mexico is another reason for the advancing value of the dollar.

A rising federal deficit?

The deficit is the difference between the federal government’s total spending and total revenues each fiscal year. The annual deficit has been as high as $1.4 trillion in recent years, falling to $587 billion in the fiscal year (2016) that just ended. Trump’s proposed Keynesian policies are likely to widen the deficit in FY 2017 and sharply in FY 2018. While those yelloFederal Deficit.xlsxw bars are only forecasts, if Trumponomics is realized, you can chalk up another indicator that is likely to rise sharply.

What does this all mean to you?

Higher Treasury bond rates will likely translate into higher mortgage rates and higher auto loan rates. However, because the stock market is at record levels, you should feel a lot wealthier. Furthermore, your disposable income is likely to rise with the election promise of lower taxes.

And because the unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent, you are fully employed and your salary is rising anyway. This makes you feel much more secure about the future. That’s what rising consumer confidence is all about.

And as the dollar continues to strengthen, your summer vacation continues to get cheaper, especially if you’re going to South America, Mexico, Europe, and Malaysia.

So 2016 is ending up to be a great year and 2017 might be an even better one.

 


Upcoming Presentation:

Santa Barbara Rental Property Association
“A New Paradigm: With Trumponomics coming, what should you prepare for in 2017?”
January 19, 2017

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

 

Short Term Rentals: Are They Really Impacting Housing Supply and Neighborhood Safety?

by Mark Schniepp
November 2016

“In addition to causing noise, traffic and trash problems, neighbors say short-term rentals are detrimental to communities, because they reduce the supply of rental housing. Officials say they take away from hotel revenue.”[1]

Cities across the country have begun to prohibit short-term housing rentals. Bans have now been passed in Santa Monica, Anaheim, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and New York City. A complete ban also goes into effect in the city of Santa Barbara on January 1, 2017.

But to date, little research has been conducted on the necessity of these new laws. Are they justified in view of the myriad of allegations levied at short-term rentals, despite the absence of bona fide evidence?

The Issue

A common belief is that the proliferation of short-term rentals (rentals of less than 30 days), has lead to higher rents and home prices in many communities. When properties are rented through sites like AirBnB or HomeAway.com, they are no longer available to local residents, which limits housing options within communities.

This indictment of short-term rentals is especially heated across coastal California, where available housing is especially limited and therefore especially expensive. But are these claims accurate? Are short-term rentals really raising home prices and rental rates?

strs-worsen-housing-supplyLos Angeles Times, March 11, 2015

The Effect on Housing Supply

We recently completed a study to determine the effect of short-term rentals on the housing supply of Santa Barbara City and County. We surveyed 1,660 local STR owners, with a response rate of 20 percent and a margin for statistical error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

One claim of STR critics was true – a large portion (87 percent) of STR owners rented out their entire homes. It was much less common for people to rent out a spare bedroom or a couch.

However, we did not find that the supply of housing was significantly affected by the incidence of short-term rentals in the City or County of Santa Barbara. This is because (1) compared to the total size of the housing stock, there are very few STRs in Santa Barbara City and County, and (2) very few of these homes are used as STRs full-time.

The second point is especially important. We found that many of these properties are vacation homes, beach houses, second homes, etc. The owners, their offspring, their extended families, or their friends use these houses for part of the year. Consequently, they would not likely be converted to long-term housing for local residents under an STR ban.

Overall, we found that an STR ban across Santa Barbara County would increase the housing supply for local residents by only 0.1%. With this finding, we are confident that an STR ban would not have a meaningful effect on housing prices and rental rates in Santa Barbara City or County.

We would expect this outcome to be indicative of many coastal communities in California, and elsewhere.

The Effect on Neighborhood Safety

It has also been claimed that STRs make neighborhoods more dangerous. The question of safety was originally raised in a report by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.[2] In the report, the authors write about numerous complaints made to Neighborhood Councils about tourists staying in AirBnB rentals. “These complaints include unfamiliar cars blocking driveways, late night parties on formerly quiet streets, and concerns about child safety in an environment with fewer familiar eyes on the street.”

To address this issue, we collected and analyzed nuisance reports across communities in Santa Barbara County, as well as areas in San Luis Obispo County and Ventura County. We found no statistically significant difference between the nuisance complaint rate for STRs and all homes in cities where data were available.

In summary, the negative allegations aimed at STRs could not be substantiated by the statistical evidence. In the absence of proof, many city councils are making strict and firm decisions to ban STR activity based mostly on innuendo. And in doing so, they are willing to forego all of the revenue benefits associated with the regulated operation of STRs.

You can download our full reports on this subject from the sample research page of our website, here:

http://californiaforecast.com/samples-of-our-research/

We anticipate that STR bans will be proposed in more cities across the nation. Since we completed the Santa Barbara study, we have received requests for similar studies in San Luis Obispo County, Orange County, and as far away as New Orleans. Before taking action, we encourage all municipalities to objectively investigate the effect of STRs on their own communities.

————————

[1] The Daily Breeze, “Redondo Beach becomes latest South Bay city to crack down on short-term rentals, March 2, 2016, by Megan Barnes.

[2] AirBnB, rising rent, and the housing crisis in Los Angeles, http://www.laane.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/03/AirBnB-Final.pdf


Upcoming Presentations:

Santa Barbara Executive Roundtable
Changes Ahead in 2017: Renewed Economic Vigor or Collapsing Into Recession…?

Thursday, November 10 , 2016
8:00 am – 10:00 am
University Club
1332 Santa Barbara St.
Santa Barbara, CA
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The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

So if we now have a “full employment” economy, why aren’t you convinced?

by Mark Schniepp
October 2016

Is the unemployment rate really full?

We are now at or within months of an economy at “full employment.” This means that (1) anyone wanting a job can obtain one, and (2) labor is tight and the general level of wages and salaries is rising as a result. Evaluation of the data on unemployment, help wanted indices, and wage increases shows that both of these criteria are now being met.

full-employ_fortune_020516
Fortune, February 2016, online

Is it really fair to use the term “full employment” when people are still experiencing difficulty finding work?

Unemployment is both regional and variant by age. The rate in Tulare County last month was nearly 10.7 percent. In San Mateo County, it was 3.2 percent. If you’re 19 and fresh out of high school, it’s going to be a lot tougher than if you’re 41 with 15 years of work experience.

California NAICS NSA.xlsUnderemployment

A discouraged worker is a person of legal employment age who is not actively seeking employment or who has not found suitable employment after long-term unemployment. This is usually because an individual has given up looking or has had no success in finding a job, hence the term “discouraged.

Often the conventional unemployment rate is criticized because it does not account for discouraged workers that have dropped out of the labor force and are therefore, not counted in the unemployment rate.

Often we are criticized for declaring that full employment has been reached in particular regional economies since people believe that there is still a significant level of “underemployment.”

Labor that falls under the underemployment classification includes those workers who are highly skilled but working in low paying jobs, workers who are highly skilled but working in low skill jobs and part-time workers who would prefer to be full time.

U-rates (3,4,5 & 6).xlsAn alternative measure which seeks to explain underemployment is called the U6 unemployment rate. It expands the definition of the labor force to include “discouraged workers,” or people without jobs who have given up looking for work; “marginally attached workers,” or people without jobs who would like to work but have not sought employment recently, plus people employed part time (less than 35 hours/week) who would prefer to work full time.

Now, U-6 does not fully explain “underemployment” because there is no statistic that can quantify workers who are working in jobs below their perceived skill level. Therefore we don’t have a perfect measure for underemployment.

U-6 for August 2016 was 9.7 percent, or approximately twice the conventional unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. But U-6 has always been at a level that is approximately twice the conventional rate. Since 2008, the average difference between the two rates has been 6.2 percentage points. Today the difference is 4.8 percentage points.

The lowest reading for U-6 (since 1994 when the statistic started tracking) has been 6.8 percent in October of 2000.

While it is true that U-6 today is not quite back to the low level of 8.4 percent that prevailed prior to the Great Recession, neither is the conventional unemployment rate. Nevertheless, we are at or close to full employment and the U-6 rate today is consistent with historically low levels of that measure.

Who are the unemployed and the underemployed today?

The legal working age population ages 16 to 24 is the principal group that is either out of work or underemployed. The unemployment rate for this age group is currently 9.2 percent (versus 4.3 percent for the 25 to 54 year old age group).

U-rates (3,4,5 & 6).xlsFurthermore, this age group has very low rates of labor force participation compared to the 25 to 54 year old age group. Attending high school, colleges and universities is a large reason for the reduced rates of participation, but does not fully account for the collapse in rates over time. All groups are showing a decline in labor force participation over time, but the younger age group participation rates have tumbled, whereas the 25 to 54 year old group is off only 3 percentage points from the all time record high of 84.5 percent reached in August 1997.[1]

Higher rates of unemployment and lower participation rates for 16 to 19 and 20 to 24 year olds is consistent with their lack of training, knowledge or skill in a modern technical and highly automated economy where these attributes have much higher value today than previously.

Moreover, labor force participation rates for the population aged 55 and over have been increasing for the past 24 years and are now at their highest levels since 1964. The older Baby Boom generation is educated, experienced, and skilled. They show very little sign of being discouraged in today’s economy, according to this statistic. Oh, and their unemployment rate in August was only 3.5 percent, the lowest of any age group.

U-rates (3,4,5 & 6).xlsConclusion

Unemployment is low for most of the labor force aged 25 and above. And the rate of unemployment appears to be both full and absent any unusual degree of underemployment for this age group. Baby Boomers are not the discouraged workers in today’s economy.

The rate of unemployment and underemployment is substantially higher for 16 to 24 year olds. The implications of this strongly support the critical need for higher levels of education and/or training of this age group, today and going forward.

It’s not enough to simply attend a university today and obtain a Bachelor’s degree. The kind of degree that students seek will have a much bigger impact on their employability and their future earnings than it did for the Baby Boomers.

————————————————

[1] The participation rate for 20 to 24 year olds was nearly 80 percent in August of 1989. Today, it has declined to 70.9 percent. The 16 to 19 rate fell from 57 percent to 36 percent over this same time period.

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

No Recession, Because We Don’t Deserve One

by Mark Schniepp
September 2016

Recession in 2017?

We are now more than seven years into the current economic expansion, having officially pulled out of the Great Recession in July of 2009. Consequently, the “up” phase of the current business cycle is getting old because they don’t typically last longer than 8 or 9 years. Yet if you google “recession in 2017” you’ll see a full page of articles predicting recession next year.


pcbt-article

Pacific Coast Business Times, September 8, 2016, online

What do you think? Are we headed for a recession in 2017? I argue here that we won’t see a recession simply because we don’t deserve one, yet.

US Quarterly IndicatorsWhy Don’t We Deserve a Recession?

We haven’t demanded any particular good or service into excessive oblivion. We don’t have technology stocks that are valued way out of whack (like in 2001), we don’t have bubble housing prices (like in 2006), and we don’t have major household debt (like in 2007). In fact, economic data regarding households or businesses is not out of balance.

 We have record vehicle sales because people are employed and have rising incomes, gas is cheap and is threatening to remain so, and many cars and trucks simply need replacement.

CAR Southern California.xlsWe have record stock market valuations because corporate profits have been strong, everyone’s working, inflation is contained, and the American economy is growing, relative to many of our global neighbors. The market is clearly not convinced that a recession is inevitable; otherwise stock prices would be eroding.

Homes are selling but at rates way below the bubble days. And this time, buyers can actually afford these homes, largely because interest rates are so low.

Home prices are rising and at unprecedented levels in some areas, like the Bay Area. But the underlying force to home demand in California is supply and demand, and not easy financing and/or a surge of new home development. Currently, for-sale housing inventory is very low (as is new home inventory), especially in the red hot Bay Area and that’s why home prices are 25 to 30 percent above the bubble peak!

US Quarterly IndicatorsThe upward movement of GDP this year has been stunningly slow, and is now running at a 1.5 percent rate of growth (we were in the mid 2s in 2014 and 2015). U.S. growth has historically averaged over 3 percent, and about 2 percent per year since the economy started growing again in mid-2009.

The very poor GDP numbers this year have spooked many analysts into predicting a recession. But we don’t buy it. There are not many imbalances, no bubbles, and consumers are not stressed or overleveraged.

And it appears that the European economy is strengthening and China’s stock market is slowly recovering. So the world economy is, at the moment, not threatening to hinder U.S. growth for the foreseeable future. Not even Britain.

We don’t deserve a recession. We haven’t done anything wrong. So we’re not likely to get one. And therefore we don’t see much chance of recession next year.

 

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Our conference in Westlake last week was another big success. We hand many sponsors and a large crowd at our 39th semi-annual event. Our next event is scheduled for February 2, 2017 at the Westlake Hyatt.

Plan to be at the largest and longest running economic forecast in Ventura County. And we do provide a forecast, a very thorough one, in our presentations and in our publications, for both Ventura County and Los Angeles County.

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Economic Progress to Date in 2016

by Mark Schniepp
August 2016

The unemployment rate for the nation remains under 5.0 percent, and has essentially reached the “full employment” level. Wages are now rising on their own accord and not due to any government mandates.

GDP growth during the first half of the year has not been stellar, rising only 1.2 percent on an annualized basis. That’s a pretty poor estimate of overall growth in the U.S. economy. Yet, the economy continues to hum along with an unending record of monthly job creation, low rates of inflation, imperceptible interest rates, cheap energy, and record stock market values.

Stock_Market.xls

The Nasdaq Composite Stock Index closed at an all time record high on August 1, 2016.

Oil prices are sinking again. Food prices were 1.3 percent lower in June 2016 than a year ago. The general inflation rate for the first 6 months of the year is 1.0 percent. In the Southern California region, it’s 1.8 percent. Higher inflation rates were originally forecast, due in large part to higher home prices and rents and slightly higher energy prices. And while we are observing higher rates of inflation in California, they are still relatively contained.

The interest rate story continues to be a dream for homeowners. The recent surge in refinance activity that we saw in June and July will produce more spendable income for households this year. Along with lower gasoline prices, consumers have more income to spend on stuff other than housing and fuel.

The U.S. dollar is strengthening again after weakening in March, April, and early May. The trend line in the value of the dollar against all other currencies has been rising since late May. Today there are nearly 19 pesos to the dollar. Last year at this time, the dollar exchanged for 15 pesos. Therefore, go to Mexico and drink tequila, cheaply.

California NAICS NSA.xlsIn California, 40,000 jobs were created in June. The pace of new job formation for 2016 to date will result in more than 470,000 new jobs this year, which is a remarkable accomplishment at this stage in the economic expansion.

Since February 2015, monthly job openings have outnumbered hires as the availability of work opportunities has soared.

There will be no economic slowdown as we enter the fall season and the general presidential election. And though it’s always the economy stupid, it’s not so much this year because the economy remains solid with few soft spots.

The most favorable markets in the country for job seekers are those areas where job openings exceed the number of unemployed workers. As of July, the ratio of the unemployed to job openings was the lowest in the following major metro areas:


Metro Area Ratio of Unemployed People to Job Openings
Salt Lake City 0.68
San Jose 0.71
Minneapolis 0.72
San Francisco 0.77
Denver 0.77
Washington, D.C. 0.79
Boston 0.84
Austin 0.88
Nashville 0.93
Seattle 1.00
Source: Conference Board, July 6, 2016

So, if you are looking for a job, move to one of these areas for the highest probability of finding the job you want. There are 5 months left in 2016. Make the most of them. Now is the time to refinance your home, take a vacation, change careers, or fill up your gas tank.

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Upcoming Event

2016_VC_2_Banner for website

Entrepreneur Economic Forecast Conference / Los Angeles and Ventura Counties
September 8, 2016
Westlake Hyatt
7:30 am to 10:45 am

Speaker topics will include:

How long can the current expansion last?
What about interest rates and inflation?
The 2016 El Nino fizzled; can we tolerate another year of drought?
What are the recession risks going into 2017?
Is Ventura County still lagging its peers?
Has commercial real estate peaked?

Event Info Register Now

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Brexit Will Be a Slow Burn, Not a Hot Flash

by Ben Wright
July 2016

Many commentators have suggested that a British vote to leave the European Union would lead to global recession. They have drawn comparisons to the crisis in 2012 when large government deficits threatened to push Greece out of the EU. But Britain is not Greece for one important reason: Britain has its own currency.

Britain is not Greece

The Greek situation was dangerous because Greece uses the Euro, the currency it shares with 18 other nations. An exit from the EU would have forced it to abandon the Euro overnight and renegotiate its financial contracts, creating real problems for the banking system and threatening a replay of the crash of 2008.

But the United Kingdom uses the Great Britain Pound, one of the oldest currencies in the world, and no current geopolitical scenarios will alter this. The British national economy faces other issues, but the Pound will retain a prominent role in the global economy, and there is little risk that Brexit will mushroom into an international catastrophe.

The Short-Term Volatility is Over, But UK Growth Will Lag

Stock_Market.xlsIn the minutes and days after the vote, stock markets tumbled around the world. Bond yields fell and the Dollar strengthened as investors rushed to safe haven assets. This was a predictable reaction to a burst of uncertainty, but the turmoil has now subsided and markets have calmed. The S&P 500 has reached a new high, and the index of British blue chips has surpassed its pre-Brexit value by more than 6 percent.

But the short-term effects were never the real danger, and new issues will unfold over the coming months and years. If English officials do not strike a new trade agreement in Brussels, their economy stands to lose substantial ground over the long term.

The UK is a large exporter of industrial machinery, aircraft, and other high-value goods. But so are Germany, France, Italy, Finland, and a number of other EU nations. Without a trade agreement, British goods would be subject to new tariffs, making them more expensive and less competitive in the global marketplace.

Over time, it’s likely that some of the UK’s trading partners would find new suppliers, which would slowly erode the manufacturing sector. Ironically, the industrial hubs that supported Brexit could be the biggest losers. It was developing nations like China and South Korea, not other European countries, that were their main source of competition.

Without free access to the European market, some firms would relocate to other parts of the EU, and others would delay investment into their UK operations. The most important may be the banking sector, which is arguably the preeminent hub of global finance. Some reports have estimated that London could lose 10,000 banking jobs over the coming years, relocating them to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and other cities with existing financial infrastructure. Those first to leave may be at multinational firms that already have other EU offices.


Finance Jobs at Select Multinational Firms
Company Total Jobs in London Jobs Likely to Leave London
Citigroup 8,000 2,000
Goldman Sachs 6,410 1,603
Bank of America 5,545 1,386
Morgan Stanley 5,000 1,250
J.P. Morgan Chase 16,000 1,000
Source: Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Britain would almost certainly see lower levels of in-migration – their only current source of population growth. It’s very hard for an economy to grow without new additions to the workforce, and if migratory patterns reversed and the resident base began to decline, economic expansion would be considerably muted. Just look at what’s happening in Japan.

In total, economists estimate that the loss of trade, investment, and in-migration could reduce GDP growth by up to $260 billion over the next decade, and would place a drag on wages by upwards of 7 percent. UK households could lose $2,600 in annual purchasing power, and British exporters may lose 50 percent of their market share within the European Union. A recession is unlikely, but can’t be ruled out because the British economy was slated for slow growth even if the “Remain” campaign had prevailed.

Pain Will Be Concentrated In the UK

When growth slows in an economy as prominent as Great Britain – currently the 5th largest in the world – it tends to influence conditions elsewhere. But the global effects of this scenario are expected to be mild.

Economists estimate that the U.S. would have grown by 2.5 percent over the next year, but have downgraded their forecasts to 2.0 percent, largely due to the drag from less favorable exchange rates. The Fed was ready to raise interest rates in July or September, but will now almost certainly wait until December or later, and international interest rates will remain lower than if Brexit had never occurred. US companies that have operations in the UK will reassess their options, and may lose some of their EU business.

The British economy stands to lose a substantial amount of trade, but some of this activity may simply shift to their EU competitors. Some of the migrants heading to London or Manchester will instead choose Paris or Munich. Barriers to trade are usually contractionary, but in this case there will be a meaningful substitution effect.

In general, outside of Her Majesty’s Kingdom, most of the world will take this situation in stride.

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Upcoming Event

Entrepreneur Economic Forecast Conference / Los Angeles and Ventura Counties
September 8, 2016
Westlake Hyatt
7:30 am to 10:45 am

Speaker topics will include:

How long can the current expansion last?
What about interest rates and inflation?
The 2016 El Nino fizzled; can we tolerate another year of drought?
What are the recession risks going into 2017?
Is Ventura County still lagging its peers?
Has commercial real estate peaked?

Get Conference Info

Register Now

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.