Watching the Fed watching the data

The markets have remained focused on the Fed (and occasionally the Bank of England), and the Fed has kept its focus on the trailing reported inflation data (CPI, PCE, etc.) and on the labor market data (job growth, wages, etc.). The Fed’s view is that inflation cannot sustainably come down to a suitable level (2-3%) unless income growth slows down significantly. That is, income growth must decline to reduce excess demand. This certainly makes sense up to a point, but of course prices are determined by the combination of demand and supply.

“K”-shaped economy clearly visible in the labor market

The US labor market is showing mixed signals depending on the data and time period used. Here we review some data that can help identify the divergences and put current conditions in context.

There has been much discussion about the “K-shaped” recovery in the economy following the shock of the initial lockdowns in the second quarter of this year.  The “K” is meant to represent a sharp divergence between industries and workers who have been unaffected by or benefited from recent conditions (the top of the “K”), and those who have been hurt (the bottom of the “K”).

Unemployment is still a huge issue

The latest weekly report on unemployment claims was released yesterday and provoked mixed responses depending on how the data was (or was not) analyzed. While unemployment claims data is not a perfect measure of the national job market, it is one of the most timely measures and gives a good picture of what is going on (though long-term comparisons can be difficult). Recent methodology and seasonal adjustment changes along with reporting of state-only (not federal) claims data have caused some confusion among investors.