Radio commentary, September 10, 2009

Thursday morning brought the release of the annual income, poverty, and health insurance numbers from the Census Bureau for 2008. As you might have guessed, the first year of the recession was pretty bad news for just about everyone. Median household income—the income right at the middle of the income distribution, with half of all households having higher incomes, and half lower—fell by 3.6%, the biggest yearly decline since these figures begin in 1967. All racial and ethnic groups took a hit: non-Hispanic whites were off 2.6%; blacks, off 2.8%; Asians, 4.4%;… Read More

Radio commentary, September 5, 2009

[No, it’s not time travel. The commentary I read on WBAI on Thursday, September 3, came out before the August employment report. I added an analysis of that for the KPFA version, included here, to be broadcast on the morning of September 5.] If you watch MSNBC, which I do most nights (before switching to Fox, because it’s so much more energetic and perversely entertaining), you’ll hear that the Republicans are unfairly demonizing a president with a fundamentally popular agenda. Uh, not exactly. Obama’s slide in the polls is actually one for… Read More

Radio commentary, August 27, 2009

Not all that much to say. The economy continues to stumble along, not really declining, but not really improving either. First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell by 10,000 last week, but remain quite elevated. On a graph, the picture is of a distinct improvement during spring and early summer, followed by a stall. The number of people continuing to draw benefits fell by 119,000 the week before (the continuing claims numbers are always a week behind the initial claims figures), but they too remain quite elevated, and are only in the mildest of… Read More

Radio commentary, August 15, 2009

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve completed its regular policy-setting meeting, an event that happens every six weeks or so. The communiqué they issued after this one contained few surprises. They see the economy as leveling out, and the financial markets in an improving trend, but prosperity as anything but around the corner. More precisely, they expect economic activity “to remain weak for a time,” and anticipate that they will continue to engineer a regime of “exceptionally low,” in their phrase, interest rates. They see the risks of inflation as very low too—unlike a… Read More

Radio commentary, August 8, 2009

[WBAI is fundraising this week and next. My fundraiser is next week—be sure to pledge during my slot, details to follow!—and I was pre-empted on August 6. My KPFA show for August 8 is mostly a rerun, but it did contain this fresh commentary.] If you’re an American taxpayer, you’re an owner of AIG, the failed insurance company. According to a piece in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (which did the research itself—God, I’m going to miss newspapers), AIG and the Federal Reserve, a branch of the U.S. government, will be paying Wall Street… Read More

Radio commentary, July 2, 2009

Gotta keep these opening comments short, since there’s a lot of interview material ahead. Because Friday is a holiday, we got the June employment report a day earlier than usual, and the news wasn’t very good. So much for last month’s hint of an improving trend. There’s almost nothing encouraging buried in the innards of this month’s report. June’s headline job loss of 467,000 looks “good” only in comparison to the awful numbers we saw earlier this year and late last. But it’s still quite bad. Losses were widespread through the major… Read More

Radio commentary, June 25, 2009

In the economic news, the mixed bag theme continues. On Thursday morning, the Labor Department reported reported some deterioration in the unemployment claims figures, contrary to a recent trend of improvement. First-time claims, filed by people who’ve just lost their jobs, rose by 15,000, to where they were about a month ago. The four-week average, a better way to look at this often volatile series, rose by 1,000. The year-to-year change in this series, which as I’ve been emphasizing here for some time has proved an excellent guide to the end of recessions,… Read More

Radio commentary, May 23, 2009

[WBAI’s still fundraising; if you haven’t, please think of donating here, specifying Behind the News as your favorite show. Management changes at the station are the most hopeful thing that’s happened there in years. This week’s show ran only on KPFA, thus the Saturday date. Full audio of show here.] Mostly a mixed bag of economic news lately.  First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell by 12,000 last week, but the count of those continuing to draw benefits, which comes with a week’s delay, rose by 75,000. This continues the pattern we’ve been seeing recently,… Read More

Support WBAI, and my show

WBAI is fundraising, and I’m doing my major stint from 4-6 tomorrow (Thursday). If you like the show, and you’ve got some spare change, please make a pledge during my time slot. I’ve got some good news about WBAI, for a change. The station was been under a mix of toxic and ineffectual leadership since the death of Samori Marksman in 1999. Morale sank, listenership dwindled, the airwaves were filled with drivel, and fundraising sagged badly. The station fell months behind on studio and transmitter rent. It was years behind on its… Read More

Radio commentary, plus and minus, May 7, 2009

[This isn’t a typical radio commentary post. The broadcast version included material on the UAW’s role in the Chrysler deal drawn from earlier posts on this site. And the bits about the April employment report were written just for LBO News, since it came out about 15 hours after the show aired. The show itself was a fundraiser with no original content, so it won’t be posted to the radio archives. But please do contribute to WBAI if you can (specifying “Behind the News” as your favorite show!). The station is in desperate straits,… Read More

Radio commentary, April 30, 2009

A review of some of the headlines before hitting some big-picture stuff. unemployment claims: easing a tad More tentative signs of some slight gloom-lifting in the job market. First-time claims for unemployment insurance filed by people who’ve just lost their jobs fell by 14,000 last week, and the four-week average is now about 20,000 below its high, set last March. As I’ve noted here before, the yearly percentage change in these weekly initial claims figures has proven a pretty reliable early warning sign that a recession is drawing to a close, and that… Read More

Radio commentary, April 23, 2009

Gotta keep the comments short today because it’s a packed lineup today. economic news First-time claims for unemployment insurance rose by 27,000 last week to 640,000. Though somewhat below the highs of a month ago, this is still quite elevated. So, continuing the theme of the last few weeks, things are still quite bad, though not getting worse at an accelerating rate. Sales of existing houses fell by 3% in March, after rising almost 5% the month before. This number has been bouncing around a depressed level since late last year. So, similar conclusion here, too:… Read More

Radio commentary, April 16, 2009

Green shoots…shot? Some trouble lately for the “green shoots of recovery” thesis. Early in the week, we learned that retail sales fell by an unexpectedly large 1.1% in March, or 0.9% if you leave out autos. Sales had been up modestly in recent months, after plunging sharply late last year—in fact, while Wall Street loves to look at monthly changes, the year-to-year declines were about the steepest on record. So this big decline punched a hole in hopes that the economy might be bottoming out. But since it’s virtually certain that the American economy… Read More

Radio commentary, April 9, 2009

Not a whole lot of economic news to talk about, partly because that’s just the way things are breaking, and partly because I’m recording this early in the week so I can go away for a longish holiday weekend. So I can’t talk about, for example, the latest weekly jobless claims numbers. Alas. But I can do that next week. Leading index points mildly, tentatively up But I can talk about some longer-term issues. First, the weekly leading index from the Economic Cycles Research Institute, one of my current obsessions, since it has… Read More

Radio commentary, April 4, 2009

more signs of stabilization… Again, more signs that the rate of decline is slowing, though hardly yet turning around. On Thursday morning, we learned that new orders for manufactured goods rose almost 2% in February, the first increase in six months. Orders for what are known as nondefense capital goods ex-aircraft, meaning the sort of gadgetry that is at the core of business investment, and a key to long-term economic growth, rose by over 7%, a very strong performance. Obviously one month’s positive numbers can easily turn into next month’s negative numbers, but… Read More