Some High Frequency Indicators

Source: DB, “Covid-19 impact tracker,” US Economic Perspectives, 17 September 2020.

42 thoughts on “Some High Frequency Indicators

  1. Steven Kopits

    You can see the effects of the Second Wave. We may be starting a Third Wave now. We’ll need a few more days’ data to know for sure.

    1. CoRev

      Steven, we are probably starting another surge in cases. Opening schools and the holiday week end will see new infections cycle through the populace. This wave should be lower in deaths than the previous.

      1. pgl

        More cases = fewer deaths? WTF? Maybe a lower death/case ratio but a higher death per capita rate. Of course a bot like you would not know the difference.

  2. Moses Herzog

    Terrific graphs Menzie, thanks for sharing. The timeliness of this data and the sectors covered gives a better view of recent activity than most of the barometers we’re seeing now, so your DB graphs are especially instructive and enlightening~~~but we rarely expect anything else from you.

    I wish to say something that might sound petty or frivolous. In the prior post, with the beige and brown colored states, with the shades of brown depicting the level of unemployment or change in unemployment~~~I’m wondering if it was stated in percentages rather than decimal points if people wouldn’t grasp it better. Now someone can say (and it’s a decent argument) “I can’t dumb down my graphs for every Tom, Dick, and sammy that visits my blog”. But I do think there’s something to be said for data presented in a way that even the slow guy in the back of the classroom can get~~even if there’s a small chance that it will change “the slow guy in the back of the classroom’s ” viewpoint. People are free to laugh at me here, but I am here to tell you some people will read that graph, or other similar type graphs and think those decimal points are “a percentage of 1%”, which it obviously is not—-but I guarantee you there will be come who read it that way.

    When The DNC had John Kasich give his speech/endorsement did it really make a difference?? Why have Kasich present the same speech any Democrat could give. When the information is presented in a different way/context it’s more apt to “sink in”. I think decimal points instead of percentages get confusing for some folks.

    1. 2slugbaits

      This puts McConnell in an interesting position. On the one hand his one big goal has been to stack the SCOTUS; however, forcing a nomination vote before the election all but guarantees that McConnell will lose the Senate on Nov 3rd. If you’re Collins or McSally or Gardiner or Ernst or Tillis or Daines the last thing you want is to have to take a tough vote. If you’re smart you’ll be looking for ways to kick the can down the road and avoid having to make a tough decision. For those senate candidates it’s a no win situation regardless of how they vote. The smart move would be to pretend to take the high road by urging McConnell to delay a vote until after the election or the inauguration. That leaves the possibility of confirming a Trump appointee during a lame duck session, which would pretty much break all the rules and norms. And that’s where things get risky for Republicans. If you flagrantly break long established norms, then the Democrats would have little reason for respecting the norm of having 9 members on the Court. Biden and the Democrats in Congress would be under a lot of pressure to stack the Court. The only thing that prevents that now is a respect for tradition and norms, but if one side flagrantly breaks tradition and norms that side shouldn’t be too surprised if turnabout is fair play.

      1. Ivan

        The Senate will not take the vote on a nominee before the election. Trump may even use this to blackmail his “Christian” voters. Sort of like “come out and vote for me or Biden will get the pick” (GOP senators could also do that). That would likely backfire – but Trump is known for shooting himself in the foot. If this is pushed to a lame duck session, things get very interesting. If Biden wins he may hold a blanket pardon of Trump over his head – and make that pardon dependent on Trumps behavior. Remember that Trump has no loyalty or ideology and is always just in it for himself.

      2. pgl

        If McConnell does the unthinkable, some Democrats are already organizing rather than agonizing by saying that we need to take the Senate back so we could pack the court by adding 4 new positions. Joy Reid already has two nominees. Anita to sit next to Clarence Thomas and Christine Margaret Blasey Ford to sit next to Brett Kavanaugh.

        1. 2slugbaits

          If McConnell manages to push through Trump’s nominee during a lame duck session, then there will surely be reprisals in January. One possibility would be to pack the Court. Another might be to redistrict and expand the circuit and appellate courts, thereby undoing much of what McConnell has done over the last 3 years. Another possibility is that the Democrats could push through statehood for Puerto Rico (and perhaps Guam?). Tit-for-tat is always a good strategy in an infinite game. Whatever the Dems decide to do if McConnell carries through with his plan, the GOP is going to pay one helluva big price. And don’t forget that a couple of conservative justices have some shady backgrounds that the Dems let slide that might get extra attention from the DOJ.

          1. pgl

            First step is to get a Democratic majority in the Senate. Hopefully the political blow back from McConnell exploiting this situation goes a long way of bringing him down as majority leader.

          2. 2slugbaits

   had the Democrats with a 58% chance of winning the Senate before RBG’s death. But that assumed Susan Collins’ seat was almost a toss-up. If the Senate votes to confirm, then she’s probably toast. Of the four most vulnerable Republicans, she had the best chance (48%) of surviving before RBG died. The other three (Gardner, McSally and Tillis) were all under 40%. Collins is in a no win situation. If McConnell brings the nomination up for a vote, then Collins will get killed by her GOP base if she votes against or killed by the Democrats and independents if she votes for. If I were Susan Collins I would be having a serious “come to Jesus moment” with Mitch McConnell right now.

  3. 2slugbaits

    I don’t want to sound like a shadowstats cult member, but it’s worth pointing out that the headline national unemployment rate of 8.4% makes things look a lot better than they really are. That’s because a lot of the formerly unemployed have exited the labor force. In March the labor force was 162,913 thousand and the number of unemployed was 7,140 thousand, so 7,140 / 162,913 = 4.4%. In April the number of unemployed spiked to 23,078 thousand, but the labor force also shrank to 156,481 thousand, so the measured unemployment rate was 23, 078 / 156,481 = 14.7%. But many workers who lost their jobs in April also exited the labor force, so we really need to put those workers back into the labor force in order to better capture the true health of the labor market relative to where it was in March. If we divide the 130,303 thousand employed in April by the 162,913 thousand labor force number from March, we get an employment percent of 80%, or an unemployment rate of 20%. In other words, back in April we should have expected an unemployment rate of 20% if many of those workers who lost their jobs had instead elected to stay in the labor force. Using the same approach for August we get an unemployment rate of: 1 – (140,914 / 162,913) = 1 – 0.865 = 13.5%. In other words, in order to get the labor market back to where it was in March the true task ahead of us is to reduce an effective unemployment rate of 13.5% down to 4.4%. That’s a much heavier lift than only having to bring it down from 8.4%.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ 2slugbaits
      I can’t put it as intelligently as you just did (no sarcasm there) but I guess it wouldn’t take much for you to guess this is an ongoing pet peeve of mine and I 100% agree with you. That’s not a criticism of anyone who quotes the official numbers either, I just think that view you gave should “be out there”.

      1. macroduck

        Always a good idea. This is essentially a way of getting participation and unemployment in a single series.

      2. pgl

        Labor economists focus on employment as they know the unemployment figures can be moved by labor force participation variations. Only hacks like Kudlow and Bruce Hall would focus solely on the unemployment rate.

    2. Not Trampis

      Happening downunder as well. There is a huge discrepancy between those of government paymenbts and the U rate.

      Here like your ungovernable land should see the participation rate rising over time. Should I said

  4. Willie

    Dumb question: why is the dark line high income on the spending chart and low income on the other two broken out charts?

      1. Moses Herzog

        It’s not a “dumb question”, but I’m reading the graphs individually anyway. I suppose if you’re skimming fast it might be confusing. I mean I’m assuming this is for DB clients which is a high income group and if they’re subscribing to this (I assume you have to pay) you’re probably looking at a pretty sharp group here. Unless they’re teasing this out to WSJ (and even then) they aren’t going to have problems reading it.

  5. Ivan

    Very nice demonstration of how giving low income people even more money than they earned in salary was a really effective stimulus. They are the ultimate consumer class, spending every dollar they get very quickly even when the future is uncertain. The need for another $ trillion stimulus is obvious.

  6. spencer

    Chart 2, Card Spending is interesting. How do they calculate it? The chart looks like the three levels are simply a function of total spending. The extremely tight fit between the three series implies that they are not independently collecting data on high, middle and low income consumers. Rather, each is a function of total card spending. So, showing three levels of card spending implies a level of precision that I doubt they actually have the data for. Right?

    1. macroduck

      Based on no evidence, I’d guess the dispersion in card spending after the decline reflects less service consumption at lower incomes. That would make sense, but doesn’t address your doubts about the validity of the data.

  7. 2slugbaits

    spencer I don’t know about the charts in Menzie’s post, but as I mentioned above, they look awfully similar to what you’d find on In that case they tracked credit/debit card spending by zip code and assigned each zip code a high/medium/low income status. The methodology is provided here:

    I would imagine that Haver Analytics and DB did something similar.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ David O’Rear
      You said that very well. They have taken informal polls of female protesters at protesting events related to feminist issues. Many of them openly admit they don’t vote. I’ve seen video interviews of these women, and these weren’t in Steve Bannon produced projects, they were reliable sources. I am left awestruck that these women think they are achieving anything by waving a large posterboard around and then sitting on a couch in early November.

      I guess if I was a horrid “sexist” commenter I would proffer the theory that filling in a voter scantron sheet or going into a curtained voting booth doesn’t get some women the ATTENTION they need to get stirred up to CONSTRUCTIVE action. But I would never make such a horrific comment related to casually observable human behavior.

  8. Moses Herzog

    Did anyone see Claudia Sahm’s latest online rage-athon?? Or am I the last guy to know after 7 weeks have elapsed??

    I saw Claudia Sahm has finally found a job suitable to her talents: Bloomberg Opinion columnist. Isn’t it great to see happy endings?? Now Sahm can parrot things that the left has been forcing dialogue about and highlighting over the last 20+ years and complain no one is noticing she is the “first person” to discuss these issues. These are going to be heady days for her. Along with being the “first person” to help women in the job hunt, and the “first person” to ever offer guidance to female graduate assistants in writing research papers, there’s no telling which “pioneering” endeavor Claudia Sahm will take up next. She’s following in the footsteps of another economics “technocrat” (tries not to spew Dr. Pepper out of my nose laughing) writing editorials at Bloomberg, Megan McCardle, who also once appeared on the Kudlow Report, and since that show died out in 2014 I’m left wondering how Claudia Sahm will match Megan McCardle’s legacy???

    Now let’s get this straight, PhD (Michigan U) Claudia Sahm thinks that by attacking Economists that just so happen to be 98% leaning on the left politically (OK, I “get it” with Summers, but David Card, Paul Krugman and Olivier Blanchard for crying out loud??) she can “open the door” for female economists?? I was tempted to make a joke related to people remaining disciplined on their daily prescribed medication regimen but I’m sure everyone gets the gist.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Moses Herzog: I do not think it a useful comparison between Sahm (Ph.D. Michigan) with McArdle (MBA Chicago). The former has an impressive scholarly publication record, with substantial Google.Scholar citations, the latter does not. By the way, Noah Smith, another credentialed (PhD) economist is also on BloombergOpinion.

      Final observation: Nobody who has read EJMR can say that there aren’t a bunch of misogynistic jerks in the profession.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ Menzie
        I might concede your point on EJMR, and maybe the McCardle comparison was slightly unfair. But do you think it’s useful to target mostly left leaning economists, when those economists are much more likely to be sympathetic to her arguments—regarding women in the profession?? I.e. the web like tentacles of an ugly kind of sexism may reach out pretty badly, but why spurn away those who are very apt to be allies?? Most of the ones she singled out (with some exceptions, Harold Uhlig, Summers) strike me as extremely odd choices. Do you know how much Paul Krugman has mentioned his wife as instrumental in writing and improving his NYT editorials?? Doesn’t strike me as a good target. It seems some of them she feels since they someone how criticized her personally or disagreement (inflation) equates to “sexism” for her.

        When she tosses all these names in a jumble medley-stew it gets a little confusing what she is trying to say. In other words—she might keep charges of sexism—much more serious charges, separated from (A different blog post altogether) charges of elitism. And I’m curious, once people such as Blanchard and Krugman achieve some kind of professional fame are they then required to just shut up and keep mum?? Isn’t the whole idea of trying to achieve a certain level of success is that then people might actually listen to “your” policy prescriptions?? I don’t remember Blanchard saying he thought there would be inflation anyway—I read Blanchard’s words as saying that it should always diligently be watched. Telling people to stay vigilant on inflation (even in low inflation periods) is not a scholastic crime.

        1. Moses Herzog

          @ Menzie
          I should probably let this dog lay sleeping, but I did just want to attempt to clarify or better define my thoughts.

          First, instead of saying I “might” concede your point on EJMR being sexist in the comments, I definitively would concede that EJMR, has too much sexism. I concede that point. Waves white flag. That being said, I think my line of what qualifies as sexism is different than your line (which, I’m guessing, you happily agree your line on what is sexism is more strict than mine, or perhaps you’d say “more advanced”, I don’t really care how you want to describe it).

          And I think Sahm does have pretty good economic “chops” or ability to crunch numbers, which puts her in a higher standing than McCardle. What I would say, and what I communicated poorly, is that I think Sahm’s writing and forms of argument could be vastly improved~~which is the main way she reminds me of McCardle (poor writing) who at one time~~~ thinking mainly her years at Atlantic magazine—but really throughout all of her years of commentary~~~wrote many asinine things. In a lot of ways, I’m not disagreeing with Sahm’s contentions. But there seems to be a thread of narcissism in her statements of how she helps students (I’m guessing you and professor Hamilton have done a lot to extend yourselves to female students who show great promise to do graduate and post-graduate work, and it’s unfair of Sahm to act like male profs like you and Hamilton, others, don’t exist and haven’t made those efforts). It is the WAY she presents her arguments, and especially the choices of targets, generally, that really kind of irks and bothers me

          She’s sharp, but I think she could “hone” her arguments better, and female economists would be the beneficiaries if she did that. But I have no doubt all of this comment will be interpreted as “mansplaining” because…… “Oh Gawd” I just pecked at something a certain gender member did.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            In the recent interview on INET with Lynn Parramore, CS does favorably mention some male economists., including two former profs of hers, Sohrab Behdad and Barry Bosworth. She also moderates a criticism she made of of Dudley at the Fed, who had made a publicly snarky remark about her “Sahm Rule” after it first came out, and whom she raked over the coals for this in the 7/29 blast. Apparently they have since had communication in which he somewhat apologized for his tone and she somewhat accepts that.

            She also recognizes that especially in the macro policy section at the Bd of Govs of the Fed there is simply a hypercompetitive place going well beyond any sexism or racism or whatever, although she in general criticizes this tendency to such hypercompetitiveness in economics in general, bringing up the spate of suicides that have happened among some prominent economists, with the most recent one by Farhi apparently playing a role in setting her off on her 9/29 blast.

      2. Barkley Rosser


        Good point about Sahm and McArdle, which it looks like MH basically accepts.

        To be up to date one should check out here Sept. 9 interview on INET with Lynn Parramore, where she deals with some of the blowback from the storm of controversy that followed her July 29 blast. She now only goes after Summers and Thaler by name, both of whom deserve it. She praises a number of people, including especially Janet Yellen.

        On the politics of this, she is to the left of most of those she criticizes, and her current job is not being a Bloonberg columnist but as a senior researcher at the progressive think tank on Growth and Equality run by Heather Boushey. She stepped away from a serious managerial position at the Board of Governors to take this job.

        Not only does she have a serious scholarly record, but she invented the “Sahm Rule,” a policy tool being taken quite seriously by many, and one of her complaints has been about how some mistreated her when she came up with this.

        She has scored a lot of points. Fed Chair Powell even mentioned her July 29 critique, admitting the fed has had diversity issues and that they are trying to deal with them.

        While she has scored a lot of points, it would appear that she has done some misfiring. On Econospeak I defended one economist she criticized whom I shall not name here and now as his name has not come up, and he is less famous anyway than those who have been mentioned. There are people also making allegations regarding her own conduct towards people belonging to minorities, but I am in no position to judge any of that. But her 7/20 blast generated a massive response, although perhaps the loudest part of it had to do with the Harald Uhlig case, which I am simply not going to comment on. But she is a very serious scholar and policy economist, and large amounts of what she has said in her critiques is valid.

  9. Ooe

    the small business are in trouble more than you think. Part of the CARES Act , the US govt was paying their Small Business Loans for six months until August 2020. Now that those payments are over, times are up for those loans. Liquidation and litigation are next

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