Key Point: Louisiana’s labor market looks okay even as the unemployment rate increased by 0.2-percentage point to 3.5% unemployment rate. But the labor force has 10,622 (-0.5%) fewer people in it than pre-shutdown in February 2020 and private sector employment is 30,000 (-1.8%) below then, indicating a much weaker labor market and economy overall.
Labor Market: A job is the best path to prosperity as work brings dignity, hope, and purpose to people through life-long benefits of earning a living, gaining skills, and building social capital. The table below shows Louisiana’s labor market over time until the latest data for December 2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The establishment survey shows that net total nonfarm jobs in the state increased by 4,800 jobs last month (+0.2%), bringing this to 50,700 jobs below the pre-shutdown level in February 2020. Private sector employment was up by 4,400 jobs (+0.3%) and government employment rose by 400 jobs (+0.1%) last month. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 46,200 jobs (+2.4%) with the private sector adding 45,600 jobs (+2.9%) and the government adding 600 jobs (+0.2%).
The household survey finds that the civilian labor force rose by 5,028 people last month and is down 10,622 people since February 2020, which results in the labor force participation rate of 58.5% being 0.1-percentage point lower than it was in February 2020 but well below the 61.2% rate in June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio is 0.9-percentage point above where it was in February 2020 and nearly back to where it was in June 2009. While the unemployment rate of 3.5% is substantially lower than the 5.2% rate in February 2020, a broader look at Louisiana’s labor market rather than this weak indicator shows that Louisianans still face challenges, especially compared with neighboring states based on several measures.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) in Q3:2022 for Louisiana and other states.
The following table shows how U.S. and Louisiana economies performed since 2020. The steep declines were during the shutdowns in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was when the labor market suffered most. The decline in real GDP annualized growth of -3% in Q2:2022 was the 5th worst and increase of +2.5% in Q3:2022 ranked 23rd in the country.
The BEA also reported that personal income in Louisiana grew at an annualized pace of +5.8% (ranked 19th) in Q2:2022 (tied +5.8% U.S. average) and of +2.5% (ranked 47th) in Q3:2022 (below +5.3% U.S. average).
Bottom Line: Louisianans gained jobs in December but continue to feel the costs of the shutdowns in 2020 and other restrictive policies that reduce opportunities for them to find well-paid jobs. Institutions matter to human flourishing in countries and states, which is floundering in Louisiana compared with many other states. The Fraser Institute recently ranked Louisiana 20th for economic freedom based on 2020 data for government spending, taxes, and labor market regulation. And the Tax Foundation recently ranked the Pelican State as having the 12th worst business tax climate and 15th highest corporate income tax rate. While the state has improved its tax code recently and lower taxes may happen soon from an expected budget surplus, this lack of economic freedom and poor business tax climate are contributing to a net outmigration of Louisianans to other states, which is a drain on the state’s economic potential now and in the future. State and local policymakers should work to reverse this trend by passing pro-growth policies.
Free-Market Solutions: In 2023, the Louisiana Legislature should provide the state’s comeback story by:
Key Point: Texas continues to lead the way in job creation over the last year (see first figure) and second in economic growth in the third quarter of 2023 (see last figure), but there’s more to do to help struggling Texans deal with the state’s affordability crisis, especially spending, regulating, and taxing less.
Overview: Texas has been a national leader in the economic recovery since the inappropriate shutdown recession in Spring 2020. This includes reaching a new record high in total nonfarm employment for the 14th straight month, leading exports of technology products for 20 consecutive years, and being home to more than 50 of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. While the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021 supported the recovery by passing many pro-growth policies like the nation’s strongest state spending limit, there’s more to do in the ongoing 2023 session to remove barriers placed by state and local governments.
Labor Market: The best path to prosperity is a job, as it helps bring financial self-sufficiency, dignity, hope, and purpose to people so they can earn a living, gain skills, and build social capital.
The table below shows the state’s labor market for December 2022. The establishment survey shows that net nonfarm jobs in Texas increased by 29,500 last month, resulting in increases for 31 of the last 32 months, to bring record-high employment to 13.7 million. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 650,100 (+5.0%)—fastest growth rate in the country—with the private sector adding 628,800 jobs (+5.7) and the government adding 21,300 jobs (+1.1%).
The household survey shows that the labor force participation rate is slightly higher than in February 2020 but well below June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio fell was unchanged in November and nearly where it was in February 2020, and the private sector now employs 700,000 more people than then. Texans still face challenges with a worse unemployment rate, though historically low, and nonfarm private jobs just recently above its pre-shutdown trend (Figure 1).
The figure below compares the ratio of current private employment to pre-shutdown forecast levels in red states and blue states if both chambers of the legislature and the governor are Republican (dark red), Democrat (dark blue), or some combination (lighter colors).
The results show a clear distinction between red states and blue states, with the stringency of restrictions by governments during the pandemic along with pro-growth policies before and after the shutdowns playing key roles. Specifically, 21 of the 25 states with the best (highest) ratios are in red-ish states while 13 of the 15 states and D.C. with the worst (lowest) ratios are in blue-ish places as of December 2022.
The following figure from Soquel Creek on Twitter tells the story even more directly: those states with more economic freedom prosper more than those with less economic freedom (see rankings in Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America report: FL ranks #1, Texas ranks #4, California ranks #49, and New York ranks #50).
Overall, multiple indicators should be considered in this nuanced labor market, such as the fact that the unemployment rate is a weak indicator as many have dropped out of the labor force. While the labor force participation rate in Texas slightly exceeds where it was before the shutdowns, and the 3.9% unemployment rate could be considered full employment, the employment-population ratio is 0.2-percentage point below the pre-shutdown ratio.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real gross domestic product (GDP) by state for Q3:2022. The Figure below Texas had the second fastest GDP growth (first is Alaska) of +8.2% on an annualized basis to $1.89 trillion (above the U.S. average of +3.2% to $20.05 trillion). In the prior quarter, Texas had the fastest growth with +1.8% growth as the U.S. average declined by -0.6% that quarter. Of course, these followed Texas’ GDP contractions of -7.0% in Q1:2020 and -28.5% in Q2 during the depths of the shutdown recession. Fortunately, GDP rebounded in Q3 and Q4, yet declined overall in 2020 by -2.9% (less than -3.4% decline of U.S. average) but increased by +3.9% in 2021 (below the +5.9% U.S. average). The BEA also reported that personal income in Texas grew at an annualized pace of +6.9% in Q3:2022 (ranked 6th highest and faster than the U.S. average of +5.3%) but slower than the robust +8.4% in Q2:2022 (ranked 6th best and above the U.S. average of +4.9%) as job creation and inflated income measures found their way across the economy.
Bottom Line: As Texas recovers from the shutdown recession and faces an uncertain future with the U.S. economy having stagflation and a likely recession, Texans need substantial relief to help make ends meet. Other states are cutting, flattening, and phasing out taxes, so Texas must make bold reforms to support more opportunities to let people prosper, mitigate the affordability crisis, and withstand destructive policies out of D.C.
Free-Market Solutions: In 2023, the Texas Legislature should improve the Texas Model by:
A Big Mac attack can now be satisfied with nearly no human contact, all from the comfort of the car.
The largest fast food chain in the country, McDonald’s, is testing a highly automated location with no indoor seating just outside Fort Worth. It is the only location like this in the country.
“The features – inside and outside – are geared toward customers who are planning to dine at home or on the go,” a McDonald’s press statement explained of the design.
The restaurant at 8540 West Freeway in White Settlement has multiple modes for ordering and receiving the fare. A dedicated drive-through lane allows for ordering ahead and picking up burgers and drinks from a conveyor belt. An employee takes the order number and is available to answer questions throughout the process, a company spokesperson said.
Order kiosks inside the location accept cash or credit, parking is available for curbside pick-up, and food couriers like GrubHub drivers have a dedicated area to streamline their interaction as well.
According to the spokesperson for McDonald’s, customers appreciate the new technology and ease of ordering associated with the “Order Ahead Lane.” He also claimed delivery drivers appreciate the simplicity of an area just for them to pick up customers’ orders.
Franchisee Keith Vanecek and Manager Rosemin Jussab are two of the people behind the operation of the new test restaurant.
Jussab, who has worked for McDonald’s for 20 years since her college days, enjoys the challenge and the technology that comes along with it. “The focus on technology within this restaurant is amazing and shows the emphasis we put on innovation; it’s exciting to be a part of,” she said in a press release.
For those concerned that an automated restaurant like this one will eliminate entry-level jobs, McDonald’s says it anticipates this restaurant format will require a comparable number of team members to a traditional store. Employees are required for interaction between customers and the restaurant team when picking up orders, assisting with using the self-order kiosks, and delivering curbside orders.
The recent coronavirus pandemic likely contributed to the speed of automation we are seeing in industries like fast food restaurants today, economist Vance Ginn told The Texan.
Ginn said the pandemic has led to difficulty finding workers, inflation has raised the wages demanded by entry-level workers, and high turnover rates have increased costs for training. Combined, these factors have contributed to an acceleration in the implementation of technology like the new test location of McDonald’s.
“Businesses have to make a profit or they don’t stay in business,” Ginn noted.
“Short-term [the automation] may have some costs, but other jobs will come around,” Ginn said. He suggested a shift to other jobs will take place as has always happened when technology advances and crowds out another industry.
“When the Model T was created, people cried about the end of horses and buggies, but we wouldn’t want to go back,” he added.
Additionally, entry level workers may be incentivized to get training in higher technical skills to participate in the workforce.
McDonald’s is aiming to serve its customers more satisfactorily and seamlessly through the use of automation at its new test location. The chain has struggled with customer satisfaction, falling at the bottom of the list 15 points behind Chick-Fil-A, a perennial leader with employees declaring their “pleasure” in serving customers.
Whether the newest test location will help McDonald’s move up in the satisfaction rankings, and whether it is adopted elsewhere, remains to be seen.
“That’s the beauty of the free market,” Ginn commented. “Businesses can try new things and see if they are profitable. It allows for experimentation.”
Originally published at The Texan.
Key Point: Texas leads the way in job creation over the last year and in economic growth in the latest reported quarter but there’s more to do to help struggling Texans deal with the state’s affordability crisis, especially spending less and moving further to sales taxes.
Overview: Texas has been a national leader in the economic recovery since the inappropriate shutdown recession in Spring 2020. This includes reaching a new record high in total nonfarm employment for the 13th straight month, leading exports of technology products for 20 consecutive years, and being home to 54 of the Fortune 500 companies. While the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021 supported the recovery by passing many pro-growth policies like the nation’s strongest state spending limit, there’s more to do in the session in 2023 to remove barriers placed by state and local governments. Solutions include governments passing responsible budgets and returning surplus tax dollars collected to taxpayers by reducing property taxes until they’re eliminated. Other states are cutting, flattening, and phasing out taxes, so Texas must make bold reforms to support more opportunities to let people prosper, mitigate the affordability crisis, and withstand destructive policies out of D.C.
Labor Market: The best path to prosperity is a job, as it helps bring financial self-sufficiency, dignity, hope, and purpose to people so they can earn a living, gain skills, and build social capital.
The table below shows the state’s labor market for November 2022. The establishment survey shows that net nonfarm jobs in Texas increased by 33,600 last month, resulting in increases for 30 of the last 31 months, to bring record-high employment to 13.7 million. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 657,600 (+5.1%), which was the fastest growth rate in the nation, with the private sector adding 635,100 jobs (+5.8) and the government adding 22,500 jobs (+1.1%).
The household survey shows that the labor force participation rate is slightly higher than in February 2020 but well below June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio fell by 0.1% in November moving it further away from where it was in February 2020, and the private sector now employs 700,000 more people. Texans still face challenges with a worse unemployment rate, though historically low, and nonfarm private jobs just recently above its pre-shutdown trend (Figure 1).
Figure 1 compares the ratio of current private employment to pre-shutdown forecast levels in red states and blue states if both chambers of the legislature and the governor are Republican (dark red), Democrat (dark blue), or some combination (lighter colors). The results show a clear distinction between red states and blue states, with the stringency of restrictions by governments during the pandemic along with pro-growth policies before and after the shutdowns playing key roles. Specifically, 22 of the 25 states with the best (highest) ratios are in red-ish states while 13 of the 15 states and D.C. with the worst (lowest) ratios are in blue-ish places as of October 2022.
Ratios of Current Private Jobs to Pre-Shutdown Forecast of Private Jobs by Place and Political Representation, October 2022
Overall, multiple indicators should be considered as the unemployment rate is a rather weak signal of the labor market. While the labor force participation rate in Texas exceeds where it was before the shutdowns, and the 4.0% unemployment rate could be full employment, the employment-population ratio is 0.2-percentage point above the pre-shutdown ratio.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) provided the real gross domestic product (GDP) by state for Q2:2022. Texas had the fastest GDP growth of +1.8%—to $1.85 trillion—on an annualized basis (above the -2.6% U.S. average). These followed Texas’ GDP growth declines of -7.0% in Q1:2020 and -28.5% in Q2 during the depths of the recession. GDP rebounded in Q3 and Q4, yet declined overall in 2020 by -2.9% (less than -3.4% decline of U.S. average) but increased by +3.9% in 2021 (below the +5.9% U.S. average). The BEA also reported that personal income in Texas grew at an annualized pace of +9.3% in Q2:2022 (ranked 3rd best and above the +5.8% U.S. average) as job creation and inflated income measures found their way across the economy.
Bottom Line: As Texas recovers from the shutdown recession and faces an uncertain future with the U.S. economy having stagflation and a likely recession, Texans need substantial relief to help make ends meet. While the Texas Model was strengthened by the 87th Legislature last year from less government spending, taxing, and regulating, more is needed for limiting government at the state and local levels.
Recommendations: In 2023, the Texas Legislature should improve upon its past efforts by:
Key Point: Louisiana’s labor market looks okay with a 3.3% unemployment rate but the labor force has 15,617 (-0.7%) fewer people in it than pre-shutdown in February 2020 and private sector employment is 34,400 (-2.1%) below then, indicating a much weaker labor market and economy.
Labor Market: A job is the best path to prosperity as work brings dignity, hope, and purpose to people through life-long benefits of earning a living, gaining skills, and building social capital. The table below shows Louisiana’s labor market over time until the latest data for October 2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The establishment survey shows that net total nonfarm jobs in the state increased by 3,800 jobs last month, bringing this to 55,900 jobs below the pre-shutdown level in February 2020. Private sector employment was up by 3,700 jobs and government employment rose by 100 jobs last month. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 49,200 (+2.6%) with the private sector adding 49,700 jobs (+3.1%) and the government cutting 500 jobs (-0.2%). The household survey finds that the civilian labor force rose by 840 people last month and is down 1058 people since February 2020, which results in the labor force participation rate of 58.3% being 0.3-percentage point lower than it was in February 2020 but well below June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio is 0.9-percentage point above where it was in February 2020. While the unemployment rate of 3.3% is substantially lower than the 5.2% rate in February 2020, a broader look at Louisiana’s labor market rather than this weak indicator shows that Louisianans still face challenges, especially compared with neighboring states based on several measures.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) for Louisiana and others states. The following table shows how U.S. and Louisiana economies performed since 2020. The steep declines were during the shutdowns in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was when the labor market suffered most. The decline in real GDP annualized growth in Q2:2022 of 3% was the 5th worst in the nation. The BEA also reported that personal income in Louisiana grew at an annualized pace of 5.8% (19th best) in Q2:2022 (tied +5.8% U.S. average).
Bottom Line: Louisianans gained jobs in November but continue to feel the costs of the shutdowns in 2020 and other restrictive policies that reduce opportunities for them to find well-paid jobs. Institutions matter to human flourishing in countries and states, which is floundering in Louisiana compared with many other states. The Fraser Institute recently ranked Louisiana 20th for economic freedom based on 2020 data for government spending, taxes, and labor market regulation. And the Tax Foundation recently ranked the Pelican State as having the 12th worst business tax climate. While the state has improved its tax code recently and lower taxes may happen soon from an expected budget surplus, this lack of economic freedom and poor business tax climate are contributing to a net outmigration of Louisianans to other states, which is a drain on the state’s economic potential now and in the future. State and local policymakers should work to reverse this trend by passing pro-growth policies.
Recommendations: In 2023, the Louisiana Legislature should provide the state’s comeback story by:
Louisiana Economic Situation October 2022
Key Point: Louisiana’s labor market looks okay on the surface but the working-age population is 12,366 (-0.35%) below pre-shutdowns in February 2020 and private sector employment remains 35,900 (-2.2%) below then. Moreover, the decline in real GDP annualized growth in Q2:2022 of 3% was the 5th worst in the nation.
Labor Market: The best path to prosperity is a job, as work brings dignity, hope, and purpose to people by allowing them to earn a living, gain skills, and build social capital that endures. The table below shows Louisiana’s labor market over time according to the U.S. business cycle until the latest data for September 2022. Net total nonfarm jobs in the state increased by 5,000 last month, resulting in increases for 11 of the last 12 months but remains 56,900 jobs below the pre-shutdown level in February 2020 while the working-age population is down 12,366 since then. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 95,600 (+5.2%) with the private sector adding 98,100 jobs (+6.4%) and the government cutting 2,500 jobs (-0.8%). The labor force participation rate of 58.5% is 0.1-percentage point lower than it was in February 2020 but well below June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio is 1-percentage point below where it was in February 2020, and the private sector employs 35,900 (-2.2%) fewer people than then. Louisianans still face challenges given these latest figures for the labor market and remain well below the pre-shutdown trend.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real gross domestic product (GDP) for Louisiana and others states. The following tells the story of the U.S. and Louisiana economies over the last two and a half years. The steep decline was during the shutdowns in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was when the labor market suffered. The decline in real GDP annualized growth in Q2:2022 of 3% was the 5th worst in the nation. The BEA also reported that personal income in Louisiana grew at an annualized pace of 5.8% (19th best) in Q2:2022 (tied +5.8% U.S. average).
Bottom Line: Louisianans continue to feel the effects of the shutdowns in 2020 and policies that are too restrictive in allowing more economic growth and prosperity with well-paid jobs. This has influenced a net outmigration of Louisianans to other states over time, which is a drain on the state’s economic potential now and in the future. State and local policymakers should work to reverse this trend by passing pro-growth policies following the Pelican Institute’s roadmap for a comeback story.
Recommendations: In 2023, the Louisiana Legislature should provide the state’s comeback story by:
Originally posted at Pelican Institute
Top Stat: Average hourly earnings (inflation-adjusted) down about 3.0% year-over-year
Key Point: The economy will get worse before it gets better because of bad policies out of D.C.
Overview: The shutdown recession from February to April 2020 and subsequent government failures caused major destruction to Americans’ livelihoods, which includes a recession and high inflation. One policy mistake was Congress adding $6.5 trillion in deficit spending since January 2020 to reach the new high of $31.1 trillion in national debt, or more than $247,000 owed per taxpayer. Another mistake is the Federal Reserve monetizing so much debt, creating 40-year-high inflation rates. These policy mistakes have resulted in an artificially inflated boom that’s busting into what will likely be a long, deep recession with high inflation. The failed policies of the Biden administration, Congress, and the Fed must be replaced with a liberty-preserving, free-market, pro-growth approach so there are more opportunities to let people prosper.
Labor Market: Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a weaker U.S. jobs report for September 2022 than in recent months. The report shows that there were 263,000 net nonfarm jobs added last month, with 288,000 added in the private sector. The official U3 unemployment rate increased slightly to a historically low 3.5%, but challenges remain. These challenges include about a 3% decline in average hourly earnings (inflation-adjusted) over the last year, a 0.3 percentage point lower prime-age (25–54 years old) employment-population ratio at 80.2% than in February 2020, and a 1.1-percentage-point lower labor-force participation rate at 62.3% with at least three million people out of the labor force.
Moreover, since the shutdown recession ended in April 2020, total nonfarm jobs have increased by 22.5 million for an increase of 514,000 since the previous peak in February 2020. About 56% of these total jobs gained were during the Trump administration from April 2020 to January 2021 and 44% of them during the Biden administration thereafter. Private nonfarm jobs have increased by 22.1 million and are now up 1.1 million from the past peak. Similarly, about 6 out of 10 private jobs gained were during the Trump administration.
Adding to the concern is a “zombie economy.” This includes “zombie labor” as many workers are sitting on the sidelines and others are “quiet quitting” while there is a declining number of unfilled jobs than unemployed people. And that demand for labor is likely inflated from many “zombie firms,” which run on debt but are likely to lay off workers as costs of debt rise with interest rate increases. Small businesses slowly adding jobs in recent months and their sentiment remain near a half of a century low are worrying signs.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ data below show a comparison of real total gross domestic product(GDP), measured in chained 2012 dollars, and real private GDP, which excludes government consumption expenditures and gross investment.
The shutdown recession contracted at historic annualized rates because of individual responses and government-imposed shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, economic activity has had booms and busts because of inappropriately imposed government restrictions in response to the pandemic, even as there is little to no evidence that these restrictions helped. However, they did severely hurt people’s ability to exchange and work.
In 2021, the growth in nominal total GDP, measured in current dollars, was dominated by inflation, which distorts economic activity. The GDP implicit price deflator was up 6.1% for Q4-over-Q4 2021, representing half of the 12.2% increase in nominal total GDP. This inflation measure was up by 9.1% in Q2:2022—the highest since Q1:1981—for an 8.5% increase in nominal total GDP. There were two consecutive declines in real total (and private) GDP, indicating a recession.
This criterion has been used to date every recession since at least 1950. The Atlanta Fed’s early GDPNow projection on October 7, 2022, for real total GDP growth in Q3:2022 was 2.7%, which was a large revision up and the actual real GDP figures will be reported on October 27.
For historical comparison, the last expansion from June 2009 to February 2020 had average annualized growth of 2.3% in real total GDP and 2.8% in real private GDP. The earlier part of the expansion had slower real total GDP growth but had faster real private GDP growth. An explanation for this discrepancy is that deficit-spending in the latter period grew faster, contributing to crowding-out of the productive private sector. With excessive spending bloating the national debt thereafter, especially since the shutdown recession, the Fed has monetized much of the new debt instead of allowing many interest rates to rise to a market-determined rate. This resulted in higher inflation as there has been too much money chasing too few goods as their production has been overregulated and overtaxed. The consumer price index (CPI) is up by 8.3% in August 2022 over the last year—highest rate since January 1982. After adjusting total earnings in the private sector for CPI inflation, real total earnings are flat in August 2022 since February 2020 as inflation has limited people’s purchasing power. Elevated inflation will continue until the Fed more sharply reduces its balance sheet to provide a positive real federal funds rate target.
Just as inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, high deficits and taxes are always and everywhere a spending problem. As the federal debt far exceeds U.S. GDP, and President Biden has proposed an irresponsible FY23 budget, America needs a fiscal rule like the Responsible American Budget (RAB) with a maximum spending limit based on population growth plus inflation. If Congress had followed this approach from 2002 to 2021, the (updated) $17.7 trillion national debt increase would instead have been a $1.1 trillion decrease (i.e., surplus) for a $18.8 trillion swing to the positive that would have reduced the cost to Americans. The Republican Study Committee recently noted the strength of this type of fiscal rule in its FY 2023 “Blueprint to Save America.” And the Federal Reserve should follow a monetary rule.
Bottom Line: Americans are struggling from bad policies out of D.C., which have resulted in a recession with high inflation.
Instead of passing massive spending bills, like passage of the “Inflation Reduction Act” that will result in higher taxes, more inflation, and deeper recession, the path forward should include pro-growth policies. These policies ought to be similar to those that supported historic prosperity from 2017 to 2019 that get government out of the way rather than the progressive policies of more spending, regulating, and taxing. The time is now for limited government with sound fiscal and monetary policy that provides more opportunities for people to work and have more paths out of poverty.
Originally posted at Pelican Institute
Only a bolt of lightning or a dose of radiation can awaken zombies in the movies; the same isn’t true for an economic zombie. In the latter’s case, it took many years—especially the last two years—of deficit-spending fueling excessive money printing to get this day of reckoning for the U.S. economy with frequent mentions of “stagflation” and “recession.”
An economic zombie is harder to kill than in the movies, as they last as long as the policies that raised them, causing much avoidable pain to Americans—especially to those who can least afford it. Bad policies must stop so this scary movie disrupting our lives ends.
Zombie firms are those that are fragile as debt mainly funds their operations. They rose in the U.S. since 2008 as the Federal Reserve held interest rates too low for too long and Congress passed numerous bailouts and spending packages. Congress’ recent actions of even worse deficit-spending packages that led to a 20% increase in the national debt since January 2020 to a whopping $30.5 trillion—or $90,000 owed per American—helped prop up many more zombie firms.
Thankfully, the Fed is finally fighting the 40-year high inflation rate by (slightly) reducing its balance sheet to raise its federal funds rate target. But it’s well-behind the curve as it should be tightening much faster according to the well-respected Taylor rule. It’s also good news that Congress doesn’t look poised to pass any more reckless deficit-spending packages—thanks to Senate Republicans, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema—but a new attempt is brewing.
When these bad policies stop, there will be a correction of these government failures that created zombie firms to turn to dust.
Evidence of this is small businesses—which are the most sensitive to these escalating costs—cutting 91,000 jobs in May, making it three out of four months with job losses at small businesses. And according to a recent WSJ survey, six out of ten small-business owners expect the economy to be worse in the next year, matching the record low in April 2020. Dying zombie firms will put downward pressure on labor markets as they cut workers and drop open positions to stem higher costs, which will reduce the inflated number of job openings exceeding unemployed workers.
With so many workers not looking for a job, there are also many zombie workers.
Millions of workers haven’t returned since the recession and others are jumping from one job to another to keep up with rapidly rising inflation and to find the “best” match. The handouts without work requirements—such as “stimulus” checks, child tax credit payments, and expanded Medicaid over the last two years—contributed to this situation as the personal savings rate jumped to a historic high of 33% in April 2020 and stayed elevated for a while. But now that rate is dropping like it’s hot, as people are running through their savings—with the latest rate of 5.4% in May 2022 being the lowest in nearly 14 years.
If zombie firms begin to crumble and zombie workers don’t search for a job, the resulting zombie economy will hit a wall. The result will be a rising unemployment rate, soaring inflation, and stagnating economy, which would extend this costly period of stagflation. This weakens President Biden’s argument that the strength of the labor market can mitigate the effects of inflation, as inflation-adjusted hourly earnings remain negative.
The Fed is way behind the inflationary curve, and it’s the primary entity that can correct this walking dead inflation situation. Instead of blaming “corporate greed” or “Putin’s price hikes,” President Biden, Congress, and the Fed must cut regulations, spend and tax less, and print less money.
The zombie economy’s reckoning is likely a recession with real GDP declines of in the first quarter and another likely decline in the second quarter. No wonder President Biden’s approval rating is hitting record lows and his disapproval rating hitting record highs.
To awaken the zombie economy, there needs to be responsible fiscal and monetary policies in Washington. This includes pro-growth spending, regulating, and taxing reductions to support expanding supply and aggressive quantitative tightening to deflate demand. Until then, the zombie economy will continue to bring deeper, longer-lasting pain.
Published at TPPF with Charles Beauchamp
It’s bad enough when politicians enact witless economic policies with huge price tags, but it’s even worse when those policies destroy American lives and livelihoods. New research shows that this will be the pandemic-era legacy of the politicians that forcibly closed businesses, made people stay home, then incentivized millions of out-of-work Americans to give up the opportunity to get their lives back on track.
It’s now clear that half the states kept destructive policies in place even after their devastating effects were known. What should have been a temporary bridge to keep people afloat while America tackled COVID-19 became a nightmare of dependence and depression.
In March of 2020, the federal government began paying weekly “bonuses” known as supplemental insurance to people on unemployment. That meant many people received more money from unemployment insurance than they did while working. It was even expanded to include those who hadn’t paid into the program.
By the fall, the country began emerging from the pandemic, vaccines became available, and business started to open again and look for workers. The speed of American resilience was something to behold. But the government refused to make the transition with the rest of the country and kept paying people to stay home.
Eliminating people’s jobs and paying them to be unemployed was robbing millions of Americans of the dignity that comes with finding purpose and achieving self-sufficiency. It destroyed lives, driving dependency on government, contributing to drug and alcohol addiction, and exacerbating isolation and depression.
These effects of the program were blatantly obvious through the spring of 2021 but that didn’t stop the Biden Administration and Congress from extending the benefits through September. By the summer of 2021, the nation had nearly 11 million unfilled jobs, a spike from just under 7.2 million at the beginning of the year.
That’s why 26 states decided to terminate the unemployment bonuses early instead of letting them expire in September 2021. At the time, some in the media portrayed the move as cruel, ripping critical funds away from those struggling during the pandemic.
But new research from the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows that the states that ended the benefits early had superior job growth, ending the soul-crushing dependency inflicted upon millions by the misguided policy. By the end of 2021, only Texas and three other states that ended the bonuses early had regained all the jobs that they lost during the pandemic.
In the states that continued paying the unemployment bonuses through September 2021, job growth was anemic. Roughly 3 million more people stayed on unemployment in states that maintained the increase in benefits versus the states that ended the program early.
The states that continued this policy deserve particular scorn for going down this fatuous path because they should have known better. The unemployment bonuses were first implemented in 2020 during the depths of the government-imposed restrictions and the disastrous results were known a year later. Yet they pushed forward full throttle irrespective of the harm it was causing to millions of Americans.
There were better solutions.
Early in the pandemic when much wasn’t known, Congress could have eliminated federal payroll taxes. Instead of creating a new disincentive to work, policymakers could have removed an existing disincentive and let workers keep more of what they earned. A July 2020 study found that eliminating payroll taxes would have added 2.7 million jobs in six months.
Later, after we learned more about the pandemic and the costs of shutdowns, the Biden administration should have focused on ending state government-imposed shutdowns. These shutdowns were a failure that did little to nothing to mitigate the pandemic’s effects yet contributed to massive business closures and job losses, along with a host of other problems that will be long-lasting..
The experiment with unemployment “bonuses” should be closed and never opened again. It unnecessarily prolonged the economic devastation brought on the country by the pandemic and slowed the path to recovery for millions of Americans. Job creation proved to be the fastest road to provide help and hope.
The substantially weaker than expected U.S. jobs report was unfortunate for struggling Americans, but it should have been expected given the disastrous policy out of D.C. Fortunately, states can fix it.
Milton Friedman said that if the federal government oversaw the Sahara Desert, within five years there would be a shortage of sand. So inefficient and feckless is D.C. that we should never underestimate its ability to ruin good times and make bad times worse.
The 2020 recession and the current anemic recovery are a prime example.
State government-imposed shutdowns destroyed the greatest American economy in recent memory. Sure, the novel coronavirus played a role, but it was primarily imprudent policies which annihilated the best labor market in over half a century. On top of wounding that labor market so severely, the federal government then proceeded to poison the patient, ensuring a languid recovery.
The poison of choice? “Bonuses” for the unemployed.
At first glance, this hardly seems like an economic sedative. Why would it be harmful to help the unemployed? If anything, it sounds humane. The unemployed need assistance until they can find another job, and unemployment insurance (UI) payments partially or completely fills that temporary need, especially for those with little or no savings.
While that is true, new UI bonuses by the federal government haven’t been humane.
UI payments normally provide about half of what you earned while employed. However, in 2020—amid all the other decisions in D.C.—the federal government initiated a weekly bonus of $600 to everyone on unemployment. There were numerous reasons given for this enhancement, but they were all rather nebulous.
The actual effect was more people became unemployed and stayed unemployed.
Adding a weekly bonus to UI payments on top of what the unemployed already receive from the state frequently created the bizarre scenario wherein a person received more on unemployment than while working. Between April and July of 2020, 69% of those who lost their jobs had higher after-tax income on unemployment. (UI payments are not subject to Social Security tax, Medicare tax, nor income tax in some states.) Half of the unemployed were receiving at least 134% of what they earned while working.
If you are receiving more on unemployment than you did while working, why would you go back to your job? It’s one thing to expect people to be rational, but another to expect them to be saints.
Even after the $600 weekly bonus expired, D.C. instituted a $400 bonus, and now a $300 bonus. While the deleterious effects of the bonus have diminished with its size, the negative effect on unemployment is still potent. Some 6 million people are staying on unemployment because of all the government handouts they receive.
And although the businesses that didn’t fold during the lockdowns are finally able to reopen their doors with the lifting of government lockdowns in some states, those businesses are struggling to find people willing to work.
Unlike before the government shutdowns when the economy was roaring and businesses could not find enough workers because commerce was so busy, now businesses are contending with Uncle Sam’s generous handouts—an uphill battle to be sure.
There is now a chronic labor shortage of almost 7 million workers (and that number is rising) amidst massive unemployment. The incompetence of the federal government was worse than Milton Friedman predicted—in less than a year, it has produced this surreal and terrible scenario.
At least two states are telling D.C. that enough is enough. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte will no longer accept the UI bonuses starting in June. And South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster will do the same starting this week. However, these funds shouldn’t be used as a bonus to incentivize people to work as proposed in Montana, because nothing is free—whether it be handouts or precedence.
But regarding rejecting this federal expansion into the economic livelihood of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott should do the same.
Texas currently has almost 1 million unemployed people—nearly twice the number from February 2020 before the pandemic—despite hundreds of thousands of unfilled job openings statewide. If the governor cancelled the federal unemployment bonuses, it would help alleviate this situation by removing the artificial incentive to remain unemployed.
This would not impact regular state-provided UI payments, so those who are truly struggling to find work will still receive those payments.
Opening the great state of Texas was the right decision, but it means little to businesses and economic prosperity if businesses are unable to find workers. Rolling back these injudicious UI bonuses will eliminate a reason for too many not to work and help Texas flourish once again while providing yet another model for the country.
The Texas economy has continued to recover since the steep downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns by state and local governments in March. The partial reopening of most non-essential businesses has been a key part of that recovery, but the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations has contributed to increased capacity restrictions that have slowed economic activity.
More on the data and how Texans can get back to work as quickly and safely as possible
Today, the Texas Workforce Commission released the state jobs report for Dec. 2020 in which the Texas unemployment rate fell from 8.1% in Nov. 2020 to 7.2%.
“Today’s jobs report for Texas shows some good news for workers and employers in December as employment increased for the eighth straight month and as the unemployment rate dropped to 7.2%,” said TPPF’s Chief Economist Vance Ginn, Ph.D. “While these gains are welcome, Texas’ labor market remains much weaker than a year ago when there were 384,700 more people employed in the private sector and the unemployment rate was 3.5%. Despite the potential policy challenges for the state’s recovery imposed by the Biden administration, the Texas Legislature looks poised to help with the recovery in their latest budget proposals as soon as the economy opens.”
Americans’ lives and livelihoods took a hit in spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their routines and how they earn a living as lockdowns by governments in response to the pandemic exacerbated the situation.
Congress has since authorized about $4.5 trillion in aid, which has swelled an unsustainable national debt. Combined with the redistribution of resources from the private sector, the result is a crowding out effect that harms America’s future economic potential and disproportionately hurts those who cannot afford this government overreach.
There is a need for sound policy by governments at every level to support a safe, expedited, and fiscally responsible rebound so Americans have more opportunities to thrive.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the U.S. jobs report for August 2020. The labor market has been improving but families continue to struggle compared with the robust situation at the peak in February 2020, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns of society by state and local governments.
Overview: The Texas Workforce Commission recently released the Texas jobs report for July 2020. The report highlights improvements in the state’s labor market but there are challenges to get back to its peak in February 2020, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns of society by state and local governments. Texas’s private employment in July during the government-induced recession due to COVID-19 is at the lowest level since December 2016.
Top Stat: U.S. private employment in July remains down 11.9 million compared with peak in February but is up 7.8 million since April.
The latest BLS state-level jobs report for February shows that Texas continues to lead the way in job creation for the last 12 months and keeps the state's near record low unemployment rate of 3.8%. Here's the statement by the Texas Workforce Commission.
The presentation below provides an overview of Texas’ economic, labor market, and fiscal situation while also comparing Texas with other large states. There are also policy recommendations to strengthen the Texas Model of limited government so that it can foster more individual liberty and economic prosperity.
My prior research on how institutions matter takes a deeper dive into these figures. I recommend reading it along with watching my vlog on the subject. To summarize, Texas should increase economic freedom by eliminating unnecessary government barriers to competition to let people prosper.
Watch my explanation of previous state-level labor reports and other videos at my YouTube channel: Vance Ginn Economics.
In this Let People Prosper episode, we discuss issues related to responsible governing, like passing budgets that remain within the average taxpayer's ability to pay, local debt transparency, and criminal justice reforms where the time matches the offense. This is all essential to improving the Texas Model based on limited government that has long supported economic prosperity, as noted by today's state-level jobs report discuss.
In this Let People Prosper episode, James Quintero, Dr. Derek Cohen, and I discuss today's release of reports on the U.S. and Texas jobs picture, movement on annexation reform (HB 347), and various issues related to criminal justice reforms (HB 63). Find more of TPPF's work at www.txlegehub.com.
Be Fruitful & Multiply--Work Matters But Government Should Give Nothing A Chance: Let People Prosper Episode 54
In this Let People Prosper episode, let's discuss the news circling social media about the meaning of work and how government should influence it.
I make the case that work is essential, as God commanded us to "be fruitful and multiply," but that doesn't mean the government should get involved. In fact, we satisfy our desires to have leisure and consume by working, so we should find something we are great at and develop a passion for it over time. If the government picks winners and losers, those opportunities will be fewer and we will all be poor in the process.
Per the valuable discussions about loneliness, tribalism, and work by U.S. Senator Ben Sasse in his book Them, Jonah Golberg in his book Suicide of the West, Oren Cass in his recent book Once and Future Worker, Arthur Brooks in his recent NYT op-ed, and Brad Wilcox in his recent WSJ op-ed (recommend reading them all), my recent commentary at the Institute for Family Studies builds on my recent research paper on how we can help heal our fractured society by limiting govt, not by expanding it. Texas has provided a relatively consistent model of limited government that has long-supported prosperity, which is supported by the most recent latest state-level jobs report.
While there are attempts to increase the size and scope of government to reduce or eliminate social ills and encourage work, a major problem is a decline of strong inclusive institutions of the family and capitalism as extractive institutions of bureaucrats & socialism cut deep into the flesh. By strengthening inclusive institutions, civil society can heal and government can return to preserving liberty.
A suggested policy recommendation by others, like Cass, is to impose wage subsidies to increase worker pay while not decreasing the incentive for workers to not hire as many people at a higher wage. However, if the government incentivizes work that artificially distorts the marketplace, then there will be worse outcomes along the way.
Government should try a new approach: Give Nothing A Chance.
Too often government tries to do something when that action creates worse situations, such as with occupational licensing (see my latest paper on how occupational licensing keeps people poor here). In general, what we are dealing with is a battle between socialism (redistribution through government is a recipe for poverty) and capitalism (efficient allocation through voluntary exchange is a recipe for prosperity).
We would be wise to remember that there is "NO SUCH THING AS FREE STUFF," including: wage subsidies, earned income tax credits, welfare, college, health care, public schooling, printing money, government spending, debt, occupational licensing, govt pensions, vehicle safety inspections, zoning laws, forced annexation, regulations, minimum wage, etc.
By fundamentally reforming the failed policies of the past and today that has contributed to the poor situation for many people, we can begin to prosper again. This happens not by increasing the size and scope of government through more extractive institutions, but by properly upholding private property rights and limiting government to preserving liberty as inclusive institutions become the norm instead of the exception.
We can do this so that there are more opportunities to #LetPeopleProsper
In this Let People Prosper episode, I discuss last Friday's strong U.S. jobs report. With tomorrow's election on many people's mind, this will be a key indicator that things are going well, and in many respects that's correct. But there's much more for government to do to provide an institutional framework that's conducive to economic prosperity by restraining government spending, lowering tax burdens, liberating markets in healthcare, allowing education freedom, and more.
My hope is that classical liberalism with a good dose of fiscal conservatism will be the winner after tomorrow's election. Regardless, let's discuss the jobs report that highlighted how many people are flourishing.
Don’t miss my discussion with @AmRenConsulting on Friday's strong U.S. jobs report. Another indication that pro-growth measures of tax & reg reforms by the Trump administration continue to benefit Americans. More to do though to control govt spending by Congress and Texas Legislature.
Here are details of the strong U.S. jobs report reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 1) Lowest unemployment rate at 3.7% in half of a century, 2) avg 211K jobs added last 12 mos, 3) 79.7% 25-54 yr old emp-pop rate highest since March 2008–almost back to 80% before Great Recession, and 4) Private hourly earnings 3.1% best since 2009.
Interesting data tweeted by Heather Long: "New stat from data guru @hsilverb: Big businesses are paying lowest taxes in 25 years. US business in the S&P 500 paid the lowest tax rates in Q1 2018 and Q2 2018 since at least 1993 (with the exception of Q4 2008, the only negative income quarter in S&P 500 history)."
This is good news considering U.S. long had highest corporate tax rate in developed world which was simply passed along to people as businesses submit taxes but people pay them through higher prices, lower wages, and fewer jobs available. The lower rate from 35% to 21% after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contributes to a more pro-growth economic environment so people prosper.
Below tells the story of the net job gains in each industry, highlighting how this is an across the board gain in jobs.
Overall, a solid jobs report that indicates how we must build on the stronger institutions of the last two years by really focusing next on reining in government spending so families and civil society can flourish.
This presentation provides information about Texas’ economy, labor market, and fiscal situation and key public policies that would strengthen the Texas model to foster more individual liberty and economic prosperity.
Watch my explanation of this state-level labor report and other videos at my YouTube channel: Vance Ginn Economics.
In this #LetPeopleProsper episode, I discuss the good, bad, and my take on the August jobs report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, a good report but weaknesses remain.
Here are the key points of the report:
In general, the increased strength of the labor market has been a product of the regulatory and tax relief last year. A good sign as the Trump administration has started to follow more of hte prosperous Texas model.
Let's hope that continues to #LetPeopleProsper.
In this Let People Prosper episode, I discuss the issue of occupational licensing how burdensome it is for many workers while many of the licenses provide little consumer protection from health, safety, and welfare concerns. This issue was in TPPF's daily newsletter "The Cannon," which I recommend that you subscribe.
In fact, licenses often result in being a barrier to entry for many people wanting to join a licensed occupation, creating a situation where there are costs to consumers, workers, and society at large. This makes licenses the most burdensome labor market regulation in spite of the reasoning for them being from a market failure of asymmetric information.
Often, market failures aren't failures at all but rather the resulting costs are from government failures, which another case for this is with occupational licensing. The case of Bastiat's teh seen versus the unssen.
Instead, more information to consumers and lower barriers to entry for workers would provide an efficient market that doesn't misallocate workers and cost consumers and society in the process.
I discuss recommended solutions that I mentioned in my recent testimony before the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee (watch my testimony here starting at 37:45 and read my written testimony here). There was a great discussion among the panelists and legislators about occupational licensing and what you should be done about them.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.