After several days on the road – I came home and caught up on the financial press. The headlines were awash with the “strong 3.5% GDP growth” just reported. Color me skeptical – I’m not lighting the party candles yet.
Whether you credit the Federal stimulus effect of cash for clunkers and first time home buyers (2.3% of the 3.5%) – OR – you applaud the consumer for reversing the savings rate (down to 3.3% from 4.9%) – neither seem a particularly joyful noise to me. Government spending our money (when we won’t spend it ourselves) and the re-leveraging of the consumer by reduced savings rate (which as I recall is a big part of how we got here in the first place) don’t convince me the boogie man isn’t still prowling around outside.
Lest we get too carried away – and mindful that this week we get yet another round of unemployment data – let’s look at some numbers to somber up the mood.
Total Unemployed (U-3) – 23.6 million
Total Underemployed (U-6) – 41.0 million
SGS Underemployment Estimate – 51.6 million
NOTE: U-6 includes “discouraged” workers who want a job but have stopped looking this year. Prior to 1994 this reported all “discouraged” workers, including those looking for work more than 1 year.The SGS estimate reports U-6 under the pre-1994 formula.
Draw your own conclusion – but this is a lot of people – and households – under duress. Until America finds a way to get back to work I don’t see any reason to celebrate.