Monday, April 23, 2012

Trimemetic Turbulence

The most recent US jobs report confirms the long-term lassitude in job formation that has characterized the now almost four-year economic downturn.  While the official unemployment rate drifted down a tenth of a point to 8.2%, new job creation was a trifling 120,000 for March.  (Economists generally assert that we would need to add jobs at a monthly rate of 300,000 to return employment to what it was at the beginning of the recession.)  More alarming, the labor force participation rate—the percentage of adults in the market of employment—continues its slow decline; it stands at 63.8%, down from 65.7% in January of 2009.

Additionally, the real unemployment rate, which accounts for people out of work plus those with part-time jobs who prefer to be in fulltime work, is 14.5%—down from its high point of 17.2% in October of 2009, but still a daunting number.

Also in recent news, the Eurozone is on alert again after Spain’s latest bond offering yielded disappointing results.  After the auction, the International Monetary Fund warned that Spain is facing “severe” challenges.  Italy’s labor unions are challenging the technician government of Mario Monti’s determination to open up that country’s restrictive employment laws.  And Greece’s technician prime minister called snap elections for May 6; polls show plunging support for the two main parties.  Nickolas Sarkozy came in second in the first round of voting and is in danger of losing the French presidency to Socialist François Hollande in the May run-off.

Walter Russell Mead, perspicacious as always, noted last week that

for what it’s worth, the world economy is beginning to look a little shaky again. The two problems: Europe has papered over its euro difficulties but hasn’t solved anything, and China is reaching the limits of its old development model without having found a way to shift to something new.
Although we have no evidence that Professor Mead has read “Three Blind Memes,” he accurately identifies the unprecedented dynamics at play in the Right Hand Quadrants of today’s global political economy.