Popular Economics Weekly
Consumer confidence has risen to what might be unsustainable levels—the highest in 16 years. That was in 2000, which was at the end of a 10-year economic recovery, the longest recovery since WWII. The Conference Board’s index is now at its strongest level since those dotcom boom days of December 2000 before that market crashed and the 9/11 attack occurred, says Econoday.
Stronger savings and rising wages are the main reason for the 9.5 point surge in the consumer confidence index to 125.6. Much of the optimism is after Donald Trump’s campaign promises, which, if enacted could mean higher growth, though such growth depends more on factors outside of such campaign promises as higher import taxes and any change in tax policies It actually depends much more on a faster growing workforce, and higher labor productivity—goals that will be difficult to achieve in today’s polarized political climate.
Studies have shown that to even reach a 3 percent annual GDP growth, 2.8 million workers must be added to the US workforce every year, and just 600,000 native born workers currently reach working age because of a shrinking US birth rate. That and a very poor average productivity rate of 1.2 percent from 2010-2014 have constrained growth.
Consequently, the Trump administration’s draconian attempts to cut back on immigration will only damage growth. The Trump administration is proposing as much as a 50 percent reduction in immigration.
Boosting job creation can be a two-edged sword, in that two-thirds of the jobs are in the service sector. Manufacturing has been making a comeback of late, but that has more to do with a recovery in the rest of the world, and lower dollar exchange rates, rather than the imposition of tariffs that are subject to retaliation.
Mexico, for instance, has threatened to either ban or raise taxes on the importation of US corn, a staple in Mexico that has driven many Mexican corn-growers out of business.
Econoday reports in the latest ISM Manufacturing Survey that “the new orders index is still, outside of February, the second strongest reading since December 2013. And new export orders are very strong, up 4.0 points to 59.0 for the best showing since November 2013. Backlog orders are understandably piling up, 1/2 point higher to a 57.5 rate of monthly growth that was last matched in March 2014 and last exceeded in April 2011.”
So confidence is a good thing, if it encourages businesses and the economy to grow and create more jobs. But businesses act on hard facts, such as increased demand for their goods and services, rather than hope.
Harlan Green © 2017
Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen