Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.
Articles from Robert Hughes
On the day the Federal Reserve is expected to raise the target for the federal funds rate for the second time this year, key economic reports have posted declines showing broad weakness. Retail sales and the Consumer Price Index fell 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, suggesting that despite a strong labor market and monetary policy that is still extraordinarily supportive, neither economic growth nor consumer price increases are accelerating sharply.
The Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, known as the jobs report, was weaker than expected for May. Nonfarm payrolls added just 138,000 new jobs for the month, below the consensus expectations of 178,000. Excluding the loss of 9,000 workers from government payrolls, the private sector added just 147,000 for May. That is well below the average of 179,000 new jobs added per month over the past year. The slowdown in job creation was widespread across most industries.
There are two competing theories on the cause of the slowdown: the United States is running out of workers, or the economy is slowing down. Those two explanations have dramatically different implications for the economic outlook.
The ADP National Employment Report shows U.S. businesses added 253,000 workers in May. That result follows a revised 174,000 gain in April and makes May the sixth month in the past seven when private payrolls increased by more than 200,000. The ADP figures may not match the data from the national employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics each month (due out Friday, June 2), but the trends tend to be similar.
The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index, a weighted average of 85 economic indicators, rose to 0.49 in April following a 0.07 reading in March. For this index, zero represents trend growth in the economy with positive numbers suggesting above-trend growth and negative numbers implying below-trend growth. Using a six-month moving average to smooth out the monthly volatility, the index registered 0.14 in April, the highest since December 2014 and well above the −0.24 result in May and August 2016.
Industrial production jumped 1.0 percent in April, the largest monthly gain since February 2014. Over the past year, industrial production is up 2.2 percent, the best growth since the year ending in January 2015. Those gains helped push capacity utilization up 0.6 percentage points to 76.7, the highest since August 2015.