Friday, June 27, 2014

The Immaculate Recession

Two days ago, on June 25th 2014, the third update to GDP numbers was released for the first quarter of the year, and the latest numbers show a GDP change of -2.9%.  This is pretty amazing since the consensus opinion going into the quarter was for +2.5%, the advanced estimate in April was for +0.1%, the first revision in May was for -1%, and now the second revision in June is a whopping -2.9%!

Even in a business like economic forecasting and reporting, which is known for being particularly dodgy, this discrepancy is unusual.  But there may be a simple, though not comforting, explanation for this wild swing. 

Consider that the official definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.  Therefore, the lower the first quarter, the easier it will be to avoid the “R” word when the second quarter is reported.  For example:  if the first quarter had actually been -1.5% and the second quarter comes in again at -1.5%, that would ring the recession bell and the overall 2014 GDP would be -1.5%.  But if the GDP really is -1.5% after two quarters, and the first quarter is reported as -2.9%, then the second quarter can be reported as +1.4%, and no recession will have officially occurred!  Call it the immaculate recession. 

Now you might be saying, “that’s ridiculous , the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is a highly respected non-partisan government agency which would never manipulate official numbers to benefit incumbents during an election year!”  Yeah, tell that to the victims of the IRS, FDA, FBI, INS, DOJ, NLRB, NTSB, Fish and Wildlife, etc, etc, etc. 

Update: Oh, and remember this?  Census "faked" election 2012 jobs report.

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