Friday, November 16, 2007

U.S. MISERY INDEX | 8.3 Percent

Fed Chairman Ben Benanke has warned Congress both about the possibility of higher inflation and a recession in the near future. Higher inflation would arise in part from costlier commodities imports (reflecting the declining value of the dollar and the higher cost of oil). A recession could be induced by falling housing prices and the impact of foreclosures and writeoffs on credit markets.

The danger of a combined higher inflation and unemployment is stagflation, measured by the so-called "misery index", which was at its highest in June 1980 at 22 percent and at its lowest in July 1953 at 3 percent. In October, U.S. inflation was 3.6 percent at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.7 percent. The misery index was therefore 8.3 percent.

In New York City, the unemployment rate rose in October to 5.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, an increase from 5.1 percent in September 2007. With NYC inflation at 3.1 percent year-over- year, its misery index is a relatively low 8.4 percent, just 0.1 of a percentage point higher than the nation's.

NYC is still in the early stages of a housing downturn and financial sector mass layoffs. BLS reports that third-quarter "layoffs in the finance sector were primarily in the credit intermediation and related activities industry, which reported its highest number of events and separations in program history.”