After the most recent jobs report, many, including the financial media, suggested the economy has bottomed.
Harvard economist Jeff Frankel says such talk is premature. And his view matters. Frankel is a member of the National Bureau for Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which officially determines when recessions begin and end.
In May, U.S. payrolls declined 345,000. That was the smallest decline in eight months.
“The financial press, in particular, had been asking whether this quarter could turn out to be the bottom of the recession,” Frankel writes on a Harvard blog.
“The May employment report encouraged speculation that the answer was ‘yes.’ The stock market reacted positively.”
But committee member agree “that a decline in economic activity is a decline in economic activity, and therefore still a state of recession, even if the rate of decline has moderated a lot,” Frankel explains.
To be sure, “employment is usually a lagging indicator of economic activity,” he acknowledges.
But hours worked paint a pessimistic picture. “The length of the average work week fell to its lowest since 1964!” Frankel points out.
“My bottom line: the labor market does not quite yet suggest that the economy has hit bottom.”
Frankel isn’t the only one who believes the economy isn’t out of the woods.
“I think the double-dip scenario… is as close to a certainty as you can come,” David Rosenberg, former chief U.S. economist at Merrill Lynch, tells The Toronto Globe and Mail.
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