Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CA Defaults Drop 40.2% in 2010:QI from Last Year

"Lending institutions started formal foreclosure proceedings on fewer California homes last quarter. It is unclear how much of the drop can be attributed to shifts in market conditions, and how much is because of changing policies, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 81,054 Notices of Default were recorded at county recorder offices during the January-to-March period. That was down 4.2% from 84,568 for the prior quarter, and down 40.2% from 135,431 in first-quarter 2009, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick."

25 Reasons the Bull Market Recovery is Real

James Altucher in today's NY Post "Rally Believing It":

Advanced Degrees: 139 Women for Every 100 Men

The graph above is based on college degree data that were released today by the Census Bureau, showing college degrees for the age group 25-29 years old. According to the press release:

"The U.S. Census Bureau reported today more women than men are expected to occupy professions such as doctors, lawyers and college professors as they represent approximately 58 percent of young adults, age 25 to 29, who hold an advanced degree."

In other words, 139 women in the 25-29 year old group hold an advanced degree for every 100 men in that age group, and women dominate men for all advanced degrees: Master's, Professional (MD, DDS and JD), and Doctor's (Ph.D.).

Note: These are actual numbers based on actual data and empirical evidence about gender differences, in contrast to Equal Pay Day.

Ceterius Paribus, Equal Pay Day Falls in January

Today is Equal Pay Day, the date that is supposed to symbolize how far into 2010 the average woman would have to work to earn the same income that the average man earned in 2009—see Christina Sommers’s excellent article in The American, “The Equal Pay Day Reality Check.” Here's the Presidential Proclamation, and here's the statement from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and here's an editorial from Diana Furchgott-Roth.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s (BLS) most recent annual report, “
Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2008,” women who worked full-time in 2008 had median earnings of $638 per week, or about 80 percent of the $798 median weekly earnings for men working full-time.

But for single workers who have never been married, the BLS reports that women made 94.2 percent as much money as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day would fall on January 22 for these single females, almost three months earlier than the official, unadjusted Equal Pay Day of April 20 for all women. For a separate BLS category of single workers, those with “no children under 18 years old and whose marital status includes never married, divorced, separated and widowed,” women earned 95.6 percent as much as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day for that group of single female workers would fall even earlier, on January 19, only a few weeks into the year.

While the Equal Pay Day advocates emphasize gender discrimination as the most important source of wage differentials, the reality is that most of the wage gap can be explained by life choices that involve family considerations, work hours, and career choices. The BLS data highlighted above show that simply controlling for marriage and children explains more than 70 percent of the unadjusted wage gap. Other factors could easily account for the rest.

Some other issues to consider on Equal Pay Day:

1. On average, men work 5.6 more hours per week than women—the equivalent of seven additional weeks of full-time work per year (see chart above). That would put “Equal Work Day” at the end of February, symbolizing how far the average women would have to work into 2010 to equal the same number of hours that the average man worked in 2009.

2. The unemployment rate for men has been greater than the jobless rate for women for the last 40 months, and job losses during the depth of the last recession were four times greater for men.

3. There were 1,277 male occupational fatalities in 2008 for every 100 female work-related deaths, a ratio of almost 13:1.

An important question then for women on Equal Pay Day: Would perfect labor market equality really be worth it if it meant working 280 more hours per year, having a much greater chance of being unemployed during recessions, and being significantly more exposed to work-related injury and death?

Cross-posted today on the
Enterprise blog.

Economic Deja Vu?

I've featured this Time Magazine article before, but thought it might be worth a re-visit:
If America’s economic landscape seems suddenly alien and hostile to many citizens, there is good reason: they have never seen anything like it. Nothing in memory has prepared consumers for such turbulent, epochal change, the sort of upheaval that happens once in 50 years. Even the economists do not have a name for the present condition, though one has described it as "suspended animation" and "never-never land."

The outward sign of the change is an economy that stubbornly refuses to recover from the recession. In a normal rebound, Americans would be witnessing a flurry of hiring, new investment and lending, and buoyant growth. But the U.S. economy remains almost comatose a full year and a half after the recession officially ended. Unemployment is still high; real wages are declining. At a TIME economic forum last week, forecasters predicted that U.S. growth would amount to only 1.8% this year and 2.6% for 1993, about half the speed of a normal recovery. The current slump already ranks as the longest period of sustained weakness since the Great Depression.

That was the last time the economy staggered under as many "structural" burdens, as opposed to the familiar "cyclical" problems that create temporary recessions once or twice a decade. The structural faults, many of them legacies of the 1980s, represent once-in-a-lifetime dislocations that will take years to work out. Among them: the job drought, the debt hangover, the defense-industry contraction, the savings and loan collapse, the real estate depression, the health-care cost explosion and the runaway federal deficit. "This is a sick economy that won't respond to traditional remedies," said Norman Robertson, chief economist at Pittsburgh's Mellon Bank. "There's going to be a lot of trauma before it's over."
MP: Sound familiar? It could easily have been written to describe the current situation, but it was actually written at the end of September 1992, a full 18 months after the 1990-1991 recession had ended in March 1991. More importantly, it was written in the early stages of the longest (120 month) and strongest economic expansion in the history of the U.S. economy that lasted until March 2001. Maybe media "gloom and doom" is a good leading indicator of future economic expansion. Hopefully it's "déjà vu" all over again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leading Economic Index Rises 12th Straight Month

LA Times -- The index of U.S. leading indicators rose in March by the most in 10 months, a sign the economy will keep growing into the second half of the year. The 1.4 percent increase in the New York-based Conference Board's measure of the outlook for three to six months was more than anticipated and followed a revised 0.4 percent gain in February.

Manufacturers are ratcheting up production and factory workers are putting in longer hours as companies rebuild inventories and ship more goods overseas. Further improvement in the job market will help sustain the economy's recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s.

"The economy really seems to be gaining momentum, with better-than-expected data coming from a wider variety of sources," said Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit. "The sectors that were doing well appear to be doing even better and those that were struggling appear to be seeing signs of renewed activity."

MP: The Leading Economic Index has now increased in each month since last April, which is the first 12-consecutive month increase since mid-2004, almost six years ago. The unadjusted 1.5 point increase in the index from 108.1 in February to 109.6 in March was the largest monthly increase in the history of the index back to 1970, and on a percentage basis, the 1.4% increase was the highest in six years, since March of 2004.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

America's Comeback Story: Welcome to the Economic Expansion; U.S. Destined to Stay on Top

Daniel Gross in Newsweek on how America pulled itself back from the brink—and why it's destined to stay on top:

"The long-term decline of the U.S. economy has been greatly exaggerated. America is coming back stronger, better, and faster than nearly anyone expected—and faster than most of its international rivals.

The Dow Jones industrial average, hovering near 11,000, is up 70 percent in the past 13 months, and auto sales in the first quarter were up 16 percent from 2009. The economy added 162,000 jobs in March, including 17,000 in manufacturing. The dollar has gained strength, and the U.S. is back to its familiar position of lapping Europe and Japan in growth. Among large economies, only China, India, and Brazil are growing more rapidly than the U.S.—and they're doing so off a much smaller base. If the U.S. economy grows at a 3.6 percent rate this year, as Macroeconomic Advisers projects, it'll create $513 billion in new economic activity—equal to the GDP of Indonesia.

The last two expansions have been 120 months and 92 months, respectively. If the U.S. continues to adapt as it has, and if it produces a few more game changers like Google and Apple, there's no reason that the expansion that started in July 2009, against all the odds and predictions, can't last just as long."

Med School Grads Haven't Increased Since 1980; Nurses Can Help, But the AMA Protects Its Turf

Physicians in the U.S. made an average of about $200,000 in 1996, which was between 2 and 5 times as much as doctors made in European countries and Japan (see chart above). The median physician salary in the U.S. is now closer to $275,000 (data here). How do we explain the significantly higher physician salaries in the U.S. compared to other countries? Here's one possible explanation:

The supply of medical school graduates has remained basically flat for the last 30 years (data here). At the same time, the demand for physicians' services has increased over time because of a population that is both increasing and aging. So we've now got more people with more serious end-of-life medical problems demanding more medical care from a limited supply of physicians - and that's a sure prescription for rising MD salaries.

Why hasn't the supply of physicians increased to meet the rising demand for medical services, the way the supply of web designers or software programmers has increased to meet the rising demand for those professions? As Dennis Cauchon wrote in
USA Today in 2005 about the doctor shortage:

"The marketplace doesn't determine how many doctors the nation has, as it does for engineers, pilots and other professions. The number of doctors is a political decision, heavily influenced by doctors themselves. Congress controls the supply of physicians by how much federal funding it provides for medical residencies — the graduate training required of all doctors."

And we're now going to provide health care to an additional 20-30 million Americans under health care reform when the number of new physicians this year is about the same as the graduating class of 1980? Just wondering, did Congress ever consider the reality reflected in the graph above that there has been no increase in the supply of physicians for the last 30 years when they passed health care reform to extend coverage to millions of uninsured?

Here's one solution from Steve Chapman, who suggests that we can "
Nurse Our Way Out of the Doctor Shortage":

"Thanks to health care reform, millions of previously uninsured Americans will have policies enabling them to go to the doctor when necessary without financial fear. But it's a bit like giving everyone a plane ticket to fly tomorrow. If the planes are all full, you won't be going anywhere.

There are not a lot of doctors sitting in their offices like the Maytag repairman, playing solitaire and wishing a patient would drop by. Most of them manage to stay plenty busy. Nor is there a tidal wave of young physicians about to roll in to quench this new thirst for medical care.

Regardless, there seems to be no doubt that it will get harder to find someone to treat you, it may cost more and you'll spend two hours in the waiting room instead of one.

Or maybe not. What people with medical problems need is medical care, but you don't always need a physician to get treatment. You might also see a different sort of trained professional — say, a nurse practitioner, physician's assistant, nurse or physical therapist."

MP: Unfortunately, the medical cartel is not keen on competition from nurses, and according to this news report:

"The medical establishment is fighting to protect turf. The American Medical Association, which supported the national health care overhaul, says a doctor shortage is no reason to put nurses in charge and endanger patients."

Markets In Everything: $5,000 Taxi Ride

British actor John Cleese of Monty Python fame opted for a daylong cab ride halfway across Europe after the dust plume from an Icelandic volcano left him stranded. Cleese paid $5,100 for a Mercedes taxi Friday from the Norwegian capital, Oslo, to Brussels (see map above, thanks to pkd).

Friday, April 16, 2010

World Stock Market Value Reaches 20-Month High in March, $20 Trillion of Value Regained

According to data from the World Federation of Exchanges, world stock market valuation reached a 20-month high of $49.1 trillion in March, the highest level since July 2008. Compared to last March, world markets have gained 55.4% in value, led by strong annual, triple-digit gains from Brazil (102%), India (125%), Turkey (131%), and Japan (104%).

From the February 2009 bottom of $28.6 trillion, world stock market capitalization has gained more than $20 trillion, and has increased by 72%. From the all-time December 2007 high of about $61 trillion, the world stock markets lost about $30 trillion in value in 14 months through February 2009, and $20 trillion of that loss has been regained through March of this year. Although world stock market value is still down $10 trillion from the peak, it should be noted that there is $29 trillion more of stock market wealth today ($49 trillion), than in 2002 ($20 trillion).

California Real Estate Market Past the Bottom?

DQNews -- "An estimated 37,295 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That was up 32.7 percent from 28,111 in February, and up 3.0 percent from 36,215 in March 2009. The median price paid for a home last month was $255,000, up 2.4 percent from $249,000 in February, and up 14.3 percent from $223,000 in March a year ago. The year-over-year increase was the fifth in a row, following 27 months of year-over-year declines. The median peaked at $484,000 in early 2007 and hit a post-boom low of $221,000 last April."

MP: The five monthly increases in year-over-year median home prices in California starting last November, along with continued increases in year-over-year home sales, would suggest that a bottom could have been reached last year for the California real estate market.

LA Port Exports Reach 19-Month High in March

LA TIMES -- "The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together make up the nation's busiest shipping container complex, showed gains in cargo traffic for the fourth straight month in March, boosting trade-related employment in Southern California.

In Los Angeles, the largest U.S. port, exports jumped 15.8% compared with March 2009, driven by such items as scrap paper, scrap metal, agricultural products and finished manufactured goods (see chart above). Long Beach's exports also rose strongly, 10.9%, as both ports benefited from the weakness of the U.S. dollar against other major world currencies. The exchange rates made U.S. goods more attractive and affordable overseas."

MP: Outbound (export) containers leaving the LA Port have increased in 10 out of the last 13 months, and reached a 19-month high in March of 161,817 TEUs, almost 55% above the January 2009 bottom (data here), see chart above. March exports were the fourth highest monthly shipping volume in the port history.

Weekly U.S. Rail Freight Traffic Rises Sharply Again

WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 15, 2010 - "The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight traffic on U.S. railroads was once again up sharply for the week ended April 10, 2010 compared with the same period a year ago. U.S. railroads originated 288,495 carloads during the week, up 16.4 percent from the comparable week in 2009, with all 19 carload commodity groups showing increases from last year. Intermodal traffic totaled 203,549 trailers and containers, up 14.2 percent from last year.

Among the 19 carload commodity groups, particularly strong gains were reported in shipments of metals (108.6 percent); metallic ores (97.6 percent); primary forest products (54.4 percent); scrap (54 percent); motor vehicles (35.5 percent), and chemicals (26 percent).

Combined North American rail volume for the first 14 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 5,074,684 carloads, up 6.2 percent from last year, and 3,533,673 trailers and containers, up 9.3 percent from last year."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Empire State Index Close to 4-Year High

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that conditions for New York State manufacturers improved at a rapid pace in April. The general business conditions index rose 9 points, to 31.9 (see chart above). The new orders and shipments indexes advanced as well, and the inventories index climbed to a record high. The prices paid index moved up 12 points to 41.8, its highest level in considerably more than a year, while the prices received index held fairly steady at a level just above zero. Employment indexes rose to high levels, suggesting that employment levels are continuing to improve. Future indexes conveyed an ongoing sense of optimism about the six-month outlook.

Future indexes again conveyed a high level of optimism about the next six months. The future general business conditions index rose slightly, to 55.7, adhering to its relatively high levels of the past several months (see chart).

MP: The readings of 31.9 in April and 33.4 last October are the first times the Empire Index has been above 33.0 since March 2006. The index has now been positive for the last nine months, following 15 straight months of negative readings.

The Cost of Tax Preparation = Oklahoma's GSP

Updated: Americans will spend about 4 billion hours this year filling out individual income tax forms. At the average hourly private industry compensation cost of $27.42, that time is worth about $110 billion, equivalent to almost the entire annual Gross State Product (GSP) of Kansas. Add to that the $30 billion the IRS estimates Americans will spend out-of-pocket on tax preparation (tax software programs, tax preparers, accountants etc.), and it's equal to the $139 billion annual output of the state of Oklahoma.

Tax Rates Might Start Low, But Never Stay Low

The highest marginal income tax rate in 1913 was only 7% (IRS data here), but it only took Congress five years to raise the highest rate to 77% in 1918, and eventually to rates above 90% in the 1940s and 1950s (see chart above).

As I wrote today on the
Enterprise Blog:

As we now consider imposing a European-style value-added tax (VAT) on Americans, we should remember the lesson of U.S. income tax rates—they started low but then rose quickly as income taxes became an attractive source of new revenue for spending-hungry politicians. As today’s Wall Street Journal editorial points out, the lesson from Europe’s record of VATs is very clear: the rates might start low initially, but “they rarely stay that way.”

Industrial Production Growth Highest Since 2005

Industrial production increased in March by 4.0% compared to last year, the largest annual gain since June 2005, almost five years ago, according to today's Federal Reserve report (see chart above). This was the third month in a row of positive output growth, and is consistent with post-recession economic recoveries following the last ten recessions (see graph below).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Annual M2 Growth Below 2% for the Last 4 Weeks

Money supply (M2) data through March are presented in the graph above, showing annual growth rates. Comparing M2 growth during the 2008-2009 period to the 2001-2002 shows comparable patterns, with a much greater deceleration in money growth over the last quarter or so than what happened in the 2003-2004 period. There were some periods during 2006-2008 when inflation was in the 4-5% range, but those periods were short and inflation was not sustained. Given the growth in M2 over the last few years, that would probably be the worst case scenario over the next 2-3 years, and the recent deceleration in M2 growth might prevent that from happening.

Median CPI Annual Inflation Falls for the 18th Straight Month to a New Record Low of 0.6%

According to the Cleveland Fed's report today, the median CPI has increased by 0.60% in March over the last year, the 18th consecutive monthly drop in the median CPI annual inflation rate, and the lowest year-to-year inflation rate in the history of the Cleveland Fed's series back to 1984 (see chart above). In contrast, the regular CPI has increased by 2.3% over the last year (March 2009 to March 2010).

Historically, the median CPI has been 50% more accurate at gauging future inflation than the traditional CPI (based on the
Cleveland Fed's research), and the median CPI is certainly not now showing any signs of inflationary pressures. In fact, a stronger case could be made for deflation right now than inflation, according to the median CPI.

Brian Wesbury and Scott Grannis disagree, and see inflationary pressures building.

So. California Home Sales Increase for 21st Month

DQ News -- "A total of 20,476 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 33.3 percent from 15,359 in February, and up 5.0 percent from 19,506 in March 2009. The median price paid for a Southland home was $285,000 last month, up 3.6 percent from $275,000 in February, and up 14.0 percent from $250,000 for March 2009. Last month was the 21st in a row with a year-over-year sales increase."

MP: For Southern California, there are now increases in both: a) unit home sales for 21 consecutive months, and b) median home prices, from the previous month, and from the same month in the previous year. Both are positive indicators of a real estate market in recovery.

Twitter Adds 300,000 Users Per Day

That's like adding a new city every day with a population equivalent to Pittsburgh. Link.

It's Time To Say Yes to Chicago Wal-Mart, Jobs

Chicago Sun-Times editorial "Far South Side Needs Wal-Mart."

Treasury Spread Shows No Signs of Inflation

The spread between nominal 10-year treasuries (data) and 10-year TIPS (data) has increased slightly over the last few months, to the current level of 233 basis points as of April 9. But the current spread is still below the 250 basis point average during 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and the first half of 2008. This market-based indicator of expected inflation is a little higher than the 1.9% consensus of the WSJ forecasters. At least by this Treasury bond-market derived estimate of future inflation, there don't appear to be any inflationary pressures building.

Pent-up Consumer Demand Is Unleashed - Retail Sales Register Highest Yearly Increase in Four Years

WSJ -- "U.S. retail sales surged in March, topping expectations and giving a strong sign consumers are growing more confident the economy is improving. Retail sales leaped by 1.6% last month, the Commerce Department said today. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 1.3% increase. The gain was the biggest in four months.

Robust car sales drove much of the better-than-expected increase in retail sales. Yet excluding the automotive sector, other retailers were strong as well. Clothing stores, for instance, saw sales jump by 2.3%. The report Wednesday was another suggestion that a pent-up demand from the recession is being unleashed within the recovering U.S. economy."

MP: On a year-to-year basis, retail sales increased 7.6% in March, the highest annual gain since January 2006, more than four years ago.

U.S. Trade Volume Increases 20% from Last April

International trade data from yesterday's trade BEA report show that total U.S. trade (exports + imports) has increased 20% from the April 2009 low of $271.7 billion to $326 billion in February, the highest volume since December 2008. From their 2009 lows, imports have increased by 22.6% and exports by 17.7%.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why So Few? Women Choose Different Disciplines

One summary of the report "Why So Few?" from Susan Pinker is:

"Women avoid going into STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) because hidden cultural signals have persuaded them that women don't have what it takes to succeed in those fields. The few women who do buck these stereotypes then tend to abandon their career plans due to implicit gender biases and university science programs that make women feel unwelcome. Hence, a ratio of women in physical science and math that won't budge past 20 percent, and the title of the report, 'Why So Few?'"

Susan writes further that:

"There's good evidence that on average, women choose different disciplines than men do--or in different proportions--and they do so with their eyes and options open. What about Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization and arguably the world's most powerful public health official, or all the other talented women who go into biology, medicine, dentistry, ecology, pharmacology, neuroscience, or veterinary science, all science programs that were mostly male forty years ago, but are now dominated by women on every university campus? Do the women really choose these fields over physics and engineering because they've been convinced by subliminal forces that their math skills are sub-par?"

Another V-Shaped Sign of Recovery: OECD Index

The OECD released updated data yesterday for its Composite Leading Indicators Index for 29 member countries. The Leading Indicators Index has increased in each of the last 12 months, and reached the highest level in February (103.57) since May of 1979, more than 30 years ago (see chart above, data here). It sure looks to me like another V-shaped sign of worldwide economic recovery - add this to the growing list.

Update on Recession Ending in July 2009

I posed a question on this recent CD post asking why the St. Louis Fed graphs are showing the recession ending in July 2009. Max commented and provided the answer. In the Notes section below each graph you can click on "US recession dates" where it says:

"The NBER has not yet determined the end of the recession that began in December 2007. The date 2009-07-01 has been substituted in graphs as an estimate. This estimate is based on a statistical model for dating business cycle turning points developed by Marcelle Chauvet and Jeremy Piger (A Comparison of the Real-Time Performance of Business Cycle Dating Methods, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, 2008, 26, 42-49). For more information, see

The graph above shows the Chauvet and Piger recession probabilities back to January 2010 (data here). By July 2009, the recession probability had decreased to 15%, from 77.3% in June 2009, and that huge drop signalled the end of the last recession. Since August of last year, the recession probabilities have been in single-digits and falling, to only 2.8% for January 2010 (most recent month).

My UM-Flint colleague Chris Douglas also points out that the Minneapolis Fed is also using July 2009 as its estimate of the end of the recession.

Random Links

1. Cuba is turning over hundreds of state-run barber shops and beauty salons to employees in what appears to be the start of a long-expected revamping of state retail services by President Raúl Castro.

2. The
Monster Employment Index Europe noted a three percent uptick in March, returning to a level not seen since May 2009. The Monster Employment Index Europe’s longer term trends also suggests there has been a modest improvement in online recruitment activity; the Index increased 4% during the first quarter of 2010 and the annual rate of contraction slowed from the rate seen in February.

Social Security Payroll Tax is Very Progressive

Paul Krugman claims here that "The thing to bear in mind is that overall, the US tax system isn’t actually that progressive: the payroll tax is regressive, as are most state and local taxes, which largely offsets the progressivity of the income tax."

Unfortunately for Krugman, the facts suggest otherwise. Andrew Biggs of The American Enterprise Institute presents those facts, including the chart above in this
Enterprise post, which show that the Social Security payroll is extremely progressive, not regressive as Krugman suggests.

The bottom four quintiles (by lifetime earnings) pay negative net tax rates for Social Security, meaning that they receive more in Social Security benefits than they pay in payroll taxes. Only the top income quintile pays more in payroll taxes than they receive in Social Security benefits. The bottom income quintile gets the best deal of all, with a negative net payroll tax rate of almost 27%, meaning that their lifetime Social Security benefits far exceed the payroll taxes they contribute to the Social Security program.

Bottom Line: Just like the extremely progressive income tax (see
CD post here), where the "bottom 40% make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes," the Social Security payroll tax is also extremely progressive - the bottom 80% make a profit from the program.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Updates on College Degrees by Field and Sex

Click to enlarge.

New data were recently released by the Department of Education for college degrees awarded for the 2007-2008 academic year by sex and field of study, and those data are summarized in the two tables above. Some interesting points:

1. Engineering and computer science remain the two most male-dominated fields, at all levels (bachelor's, master's and doctor's).

2. Women earn almost as many degrees in mathematics as men at the undergraduate (44.1%) and master's level (42.6%), but earn significantly fewer 31% at the doctoral level.

3. At the Master's level, women earn more degrees than men in 10 out of the 17 fields.

4. At the First Professional Level, women earn significantly more of the degrees in Optometry (66%), Pharmacy (66%), veterinary medicine (77%) and naturopathic medicine (80%).

5. Medicine, dentistry, osteopathic medicine, podiatry, and law degrees are pretty balanced between men and women, and men earn significantly more chiropractic degrees than women.

St. Louis Fed Graphs: Recession Ended July 2009?

OA asks a good question on a previous CD post: If the NBER has not officially announced the end of the last recession, why are the St. Louis Fed graphs showing the recession ending in July 2009 (see example above)? I was wondering the same thing myself.....

Inventory Rebuilding Shows Economic Strength

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Companies from Tiffany & Co. to Home Depot Inc. are restocking shelves in a move that will boost economic growth and may keep the recovery on track through 2010. New York-based Tiffany is planning for a “high single-digit percentage increase” in inventories this year as the world’s second-largest luxury jeweler retailer opens new stores, Chief Financial Officer James Fernandez told analysts. Home Depot, the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, “will be building inventory” this year in support of stronger sales.

“We’re moving into the restocking phase,” said David Hensley, director of global economic coordination for JPMorgan Chase & Co. “We’ll see successive additions to growth in the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter.”

“Sales bottomed sooner than companies expected,” so businesses now have fewer goods than they need, Hensley said. He projects the economy will expand 2.5% in the first quarter and 4% in both the second and third quarters, with the inventory cycle boosting GDP by 0.5%, 1% and 0.4% respectively.

The ratio of business inventories to sales was 1.25 in January, just above a 29-year low of 1.24 set in 2006 and down from a recession high of 1.46 in January 2009 (see chart above). The ratio averaged 1.3 in the last economic expansion, from 2001 to 2007.

As sales rise, businesses will have even more reason to add to their stocks, said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities. Nike reported that future orders for delivery from March through July rose 4% in North America from a year earlier. “We will certainly need the inventory to support that business,” Chief Financial Officer Don Blair told analysts.

MP: The inventory-to-sales ratio of 1.25 in January is back to pre-recession levels and is consisent with economic expansion. The strong inventory replenishment is just one more indicator that the economic recovery is real and sustainable.

Might Be 2011 Before Official NBER Announcement

WASHINGTON — "A panel of academics that date the beginnings and ends of recessions isn't ready to declare just yet when this downturn ended. The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that although most barometers show improvements in the economy, it would be "premature" to pinpoint the end of a recession based on economic data seen so far. That assessment came after the group of academic economists met at its Cambridge, Mass., headquarters on Thursday to review mountains of economic data."

MP: It took 20 months after the 2001 recession, and 21 months following the 1990-1991 recession, for the NBER to make the official announcement that those recessions had ended. In that case, we shouldn't expect the official announcement until early 2011 that the most recent recession ended, assuming that the recession may have ended as early as June 2009.

Lumber Prices Reaching Four-Year Highs

Dennis Gartman points out that lumber prices are rising in his newsletter today. The chart above (NAHB data here) shows that lumber prices are indeed rising, and are approaching four-year highs. CME lumber futures prices have doubled since early 2009, and random length lumber prices have increased by 80%. Here's one explanation from Reuters:

"Industry analysts have said that while the higher prices are encouraging, they likely reflect reduced production capacity rather than significant increased demand for the wood used largely in housing construction. Sawmills across Canada and the United States have cut production or shutdown completely over the past three years because of the U.S. housing market collapse."

Update: Another factor in rising lumber prices might be increased demand from China: "British Columbia's lumber exports to China increased by 70% in 2009 (source)." Thanks to rjs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CD Milestone: 6,000 Posts

The first CD post was on September 20, 2006, which is 1,299 days ago. As of today, there are now more than 6,000 CD posts (see graphic above), which works out to an average of 4.62 posts per day.

Milton Friedman on the Responsibility to the Poor

Classic Milton Friedman in 1978 at Stanford University.

The Increasing College Degree Gap; Will College Women's Centers Address *This* Gender Issue?

The Department of Education recently updated its dataset on college degrees by gender, with actual data through the 2007-2008 academic year, and projected data through the 2018-2019 academic year).

The chart above shows the reversal between the 1966-1967 academic year and the 2018-2019 year for the percentage of all college degrees by gender: from 61% of all college degrees in 1966-1967 awarded to men, to a projected 61% of all college degrees in 2018-2019 awarded to women. The last year of gender parity for college degrees was 1981, and in almost every year since then, women have increased their share of all college degrees.

The chart below shows more detailed degree data by gender for this year's Class of 2010 and the Class of 2019 (both are estimates):

The only degree category where men are currently slightly overrepresented (50.6%) is for "First-Professional Degrees," which includes M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees. The Department of Education estimates that by 2014-2015 there will be more women than men earning those degrees, and by 2018-2019 women will earn 51% of those degrees (see chart above).

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of University and College Women's Centers across the country, here is a
partial list. A Google search of "College Women's Centers" finds almost 6,000 links on the Web. A Google search of "College Men's Centers" finds almost no links on the Internet (a few hundred, now inlcuding this post), and asks the question: Did you mean: "College Women's Centers"?

The first search points to a book titled "University and College Women's Centers: A Journey toward Equity":

"This handbook provides insights from women's center directors at institutions across the country on how best to build a women's center that can improve the quality of women's experiences in college. The best centers aid universities and colleges in responding to particularly difficult challenges in higher education related to gender."


1. Now that women completely dominate higher education at almost every degree level and men have clearly become the "second sex" in U.S. higher education, isn't there a greater need for thousands of "Men's Centers" on college campuses than "Women's Centers" to help address the challenges males face completing college and help improve the quality of men's experiences in college?

2. Didn't the "journey toward equity" that is mentioned in the book title above end back in 1981 when women started earning a greater share of college degrees than men?

3. If the best college Women's Centers "respond to particularly difficult challenges in higher education related to gender," will they now turn their attention to the apparent difficult challenges men are having completing college degrees at the same rate as women?

G. Will on Decadent Dependence of Welfare State

"Today, nearly half of Social Security recipients choose to begin getting benefits at 62. This is a grotesque perversion of a program that was never intended to subsidize retirees for a third to a half of their adult lives.

It also reflects the decadent dependence that the welfare state encourages: Because of the displacement of responsibility from the individual to government, 48 percent of workers over 55 have total savings and investments of less than $50,000."

George Will

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Next Equal Occupational Fatality Day in 2020

"The next Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 20, 2010. This date symbolizes how far into 2010 women must work to earn what men earned in 2009. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages."

MP: The next "Equal Occupational Fatality Day" is Sunday October 11, 2020. This date symbolizes how far into the future women are expected to work to experience the same loss of life from work-related deaths that men experienced in just the single year 2008 (4,703 deaths for men compared to only 368 for women), according to
BLS data (see chart above). Because women work in much safer occupations and work environments than men, they must work decades longer than men to experience the same number of occupational fatalities. Equal Occupational Fatality Day is being established here as a public awareness event to illustrate the huge gap between men's and women's occupational deaths.

As the recent all-male coal mining deaths in West Virginia illustrate, a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk occupations that are typically compensated with higher pay like coal mining (almost 100% male), fire fighters (96.6% male)
, police officers (84.5% male), correctional officers (73.1% male), and construction (97.4% male), BLS data here. A disproportionate number of women work in lower-risk, more comfortable and safer industries, often with lower pay to compensate for the more worker-friendly, indoor, comfortable, air-conditioned office environments, like Office and Administrative Support Occupations (74.5% female), Education, Training and Library Occupations (74.3%), and Healthcare (74.6%). These differences in work environments could likely reflect differences in "revealed preference" by gender - men prefer higher-paid, higher risk occupations, and women prefer lower-paid, lower risk occupations, in general and on average. It might not have anything to do with discrimination, and everything to do with differences in risk tolerances and risk-reward preferences.

To achieve gender pay equity, there will have to be an increase in the number of women in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations like coal mining. That outcome will certainly reduce the gender pay gap, but it will come at a huge cost: sentencing thousands of women per year to certain fatal occupational deaths. Would closing the pay gap, if it also means closing the gender occupational death gap and exposing thousands of women to work-related deaths each year, really be worth it for women?

The Triumph of the Ordinary Cellphone

From yesterday's NY Times:

"A quarter-century ago, when Michael Douglas famously carried one in “Wall Street,” it was an exorbitant gadget for high rollers. Now it’s more common than a toilet.

The number of mobile subscriptions in the world is expected to pass five billion this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a trade group. That would mean more human beings today have access to a cellphone than the United Nations says have access to a clean toilet.

Because it reaches so many people, because it is always with you, because it is cheap and shareable and easily repaired, the cellphone has opened a new frontier in global innovation."

See related post here.

Ongoing Economic Recovery, Even in Michigan!!

Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index rose three points in February, to a level of 84. February’s reading is the highest Index observation since October 2008 (see chart above). February marks a 10 point, or 13.5 percent, year-on-year increase in the Index, the largest 12-month increase since January 2005. The Index for February is up 18 percent compared to its July 2009 cyclical low.

“Following a four point increase in January, our Index continued to surge in February,” said Dana Johnson, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “February’s reading was driven by strong steel production and natural gas sales, with seven out of nine Index components reflecting positive growth overall. Even as the weather effects that likely pushed natural gas sales higher in the early part of the year fade, our Index should continue to trend higher over the course of the year, reflecting an ongoing recovery in Michigan.”

Kudlow: The V-Shaped Recovery

Based on this Enterprise Blog post on the "10 Reasons the Economic Recovery is Real."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Global Economic Boom

"Throughout much of the world, businesses are reporting a continuing surge in new orders, providing an indication that economies are growing (see chart above, click to enlarge). In most countries, orders received by manufacturing businesses turned up sooner than orders to service businesses. But even service providers are now reporting increases in new business."

~Floyd Norris in today's NY Times

Milton Friedman on the Future of America

Record Low Rating for Dems 41% vs. 42% for Reps

PRINCETON, NJ -- "Americans' favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties' images that has prevailed for the past four years."

UK Gas Hits $9.19/Gallon and It's Headed Higher

"Unleaded hit an average of 119.9p a litre for the first time ever, breaking the previous July 2008 record of 119.7p. But some forecourts are already charging 131.9p a litre – just a penny short of the £6 gallon ($9.19).

This is a dark day for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists,” said the RAC. And there is worse to come, warned experts last night. A ­perfect storm of rising wholesale costs, the weak pound and more Government tax hikes will propel fuel costs even higher. Drivers were warned to brace themselves for a 5p-a-litre surge in the next three months, pushing unleaded prices to a 125p a litre average by the summer holidays."

HT: Paul Kedrosky

Wal-Mart Guilty of Currency Manipulation? Its New Low Prices Make the Dollar Artificially High

"Wal-Mart Stores is cutting prices on thousands of products in an aggressive campaign to reinforce its reputation as a discount leader, as the company seeks to reverse months of slowing U.S. sales. The company says it believes that, despite increasing consumer optimism, many Americans will continue to struggle in the months ahead. So, it is cutting prices this week on roughly 10,000 items, mostly food and other staples."

MP: In other words, Wal-Mart is engaging in a new round of currency manipulation by cutting its retail prices, which makes the U.S. dollar artificially overvalued in relation to Wal-Mart's goods. This attempt to manipulate the currency and lure customers into buying more of its products with an overvalued dollar will create job losses at Target and other retailers, and should be investigated by the government. If found guilty, Wal-Mart should be forced to stop manipulating the U.S. dollar, and should be pressured to raise its prices back to the pre-price cutting campaign levels.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Watch the Growth of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club

Click on the map.
From one store in 1962 to 4,393 stores in 2010.

Adjusted Jobless Claims Fall 12th Straight Month

I haven't featured jobless claims adjusted for the size of labor force for a few months, so here's the new chart above (BLS data here and here). Jobless claims averaged 459,187.5 in March, which is 0.3306% of the March labor force of 138,905,000, and represents an 18-month low (lowest since September 2008). For each of the last 12 months starting in April of last year, jobless claims as a percent of the labor force have declined.

This measure of initial jobless claims, adjusted for the increasing size of the U.S. labor force over time, shows that jobless claims peaked during this recession above the levels of the last two recessions (1990-1991 and 2001), but were never anywhere close to the levels of the previous three recessions in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. The sharp reduction in adjusted jobless claims from the March 2009 high follows the same pattern of sharp reductions at the end of each of the last five recessions.
See a very similar analysis here from the always-excellent Scott Grannis, who alternatively calculates jobless claims as a percent of payrolls with the exact same graphical pattern presented here using jobless claims as a percent of the labor force (slightly different denominator, but same numerator, and same story).

Top 10 Reasons the Economic Recovery is Real

Overwhelming evidence has been gathering recently that a widespread economic recovery is underway in both the U.S. and around the world. At the Enterprise Blog, I summarize the ten major economic factors that indicate that the U.S. economy has emerged from the Great Recession and entered a period of solid and sustained economic expansion.

Should China Revalue Its Currency? Becker: NO

Nobel economist Gary Becker on China's currency policy:

"I doubt the wisdom of the US for complaining against China's currency policy and of China for its response. On the whole, I believe most Americans benefit rather than being hurt by China's long-standing policy of keeping the yuan at an artificially low exchange value. The policy makes the goods imported from China, such as clothes, furniture and small electronic devices, much cheaper than they would have been if China revaluated its currency substantially. The main beneficiaries of China's current policy are poor and lower middle class Americans and people in other countries who buy made-in-China goods at remarkably cheap prices in stores such as Wal-Mart that cater to cost-conscious families.

US companies that would like to export more to China have indeed been hurt by China's currency policy. They employ fewer people than their capacity and thus contribute to the high rate of unemployment in the US. But I believe the benefits to American consumers far outweigh any losses in jobs, especially because the US economy continues its recovery.

Since the opposite effects hold for China, I cannot justify the country's policies from the viewpoint of its interests. Its consumers and importers are hurt because the government has kept the cost of foreign goods artificially high for them. Their exporters gain, but as in the US, that gain is likely to be considerably smaller than the negative effects on the well-being of the average Chinese family.

So my conclusion is that the US in its own interest should not urge China to revaluate its currency."

Thanks to Dennis Gartman of "The Gartman Letter."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

50% of Americans Get Something for Nothing; Income Taxes Are Somebody Else's Problem

WASHINGTON (AP) -- "Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem. About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009 (see chart above, data here). Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center.

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17.

Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been generous to wealthy taxpayers, too, making them a target for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. Less noticed were tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year. The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners -- households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 -- paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment. "We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing," said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation."

The Rich Can Pay Higher Taxes Right Now. Today.

Click to enlarge.

From Dana Milbank in today's Washington Post:

"Tea partiers, eat your hearts out: A group of liberals got together Tuesday and proved that they, too, can have a tax rebellion. But theirs is a little bit different: They want to pay more taxes.

"I'm in favor of higher taxes on people like me," declared Eric Schoenberg, who is sitting on an investment banking fortune. He complained about "my absurdly low tax rates." "We're calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us," said paper-mill heir Mike Lapham, "to send the message to Congress and President Obama that it's time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers."

MP: For any of the wealthy who are anxious to pay more taxes, they don't have to wait for the Bush tax cuts to expire, they can pay more right now. Here are some ways:

1. They can make a gift to the U.S. Treasury at any time (why not today?), here is the website with instructions. (Dana Milbank mentions this option, but doesn't provide the website.)

2. They can pay their 2009 taxes at the higher Clinton tax rates of 2000, instead of the current lower rates (see chart above).

3. They don't have to itemize deductions on their 2009 taxes; instead they can take the standard deduction of $5,700 for singles and married individuals filing separate, or $11,400 for married couples, which would typically result in a much higher tax liability for rich people.

March Pending Home Sales Surge 72% in Miami; Foreigners Account for 30% of Sales Activity

Miami Herald -- "Pending home sales in Miami-Dade and Broward counties continued to rise in March as Realtors said both local and international buyers are being lured by cheap properties and bargain-basement interest rates. In Miami-Dade, the number of people who agreed to purchase a home in March was up 6.4 percent versus February at 9,751 homes and condos. Compared to year-ago levels, the number of pending home sales was up 71.7 percent, the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches reported Monday. Combined with home sales that inched higher in February, the data paints a picture of a market on the mend.

The Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches said about 30 percent of the activity can be attributed to foreign buyers. While Europeans seem to be making most of their purchases along the beaches, Latin American buyers -- particularly Venezuelans and Colombians -- tend to look for single-family homes in gated communities."

MP: A clear example of how markets work - falling home prices eventually bring buyers (both domestic and foreign) back into the market, home sales increase, and real estate markets like Miami recover. The best part is that it happens automatically - no legislation or state intervention required - rather, it's part of the natural market process and "spontaneous order."