Business Cycle Indicators as of December 23

Key indicators tracked by NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee (BCDC) show mixed behavior; income (ex-transfers) declines. So too does consumption.

Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment (dark blue), Bloomberg consensus for employment as of 12/23 (light blue square), industrial production (red),  personal income excluding transfers in Ch.2012$ (green), manufacturing and trade sales in Ch.2012$ (black), and monthly GDP in Ch.2012$ (pink), all log normalized to 2020M02=0. Source: BLS, Federal Reserve, BEA, via FRED, IHS Markit (nee Macroeconomic Advisers) (12/1 release), NBER, Bloomberg, and author’s calculations.

The Bloomberg consensus for nonfarm payroll employment for December is for an increase of only 100,000.

Spending declines — both retail and food services sales as well as consumption.

Figure 2: Personal consumption expenditure, in Ch.2012$ (blue), retail and food sales in 1982-84$ (brown), both s.a., in logs 2020M02=0. Source: BEA, FRED, and author’s calculations.

University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index declined as well.

Figure 3: University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. 

Clearly this is a precarious point in the economy’s recovery. Perfect time to screw up a fiscal recovery package…

24 thoughts on “Business Cycle Indicators as of December 23

  1. macroduck

    The December jobs figure can have big distortions from retail hiring. November retail hiring, at just over 300k NSA, was seasonally adjusted to a decline. November is typically the biggest month for retail hiring. Plenty of room for a big, brief (so cheap) hring boom in December. Wouldn’t put much weight on December hiring data, no matter what is reported.

    Hotel, restaurant and mobility data all show weakening in mid-December. All are Covid-sensitive.

  2. ltr

    December 23, 2020



    Cases   ( 18,917,152)
    Deaths   ( 334,218)


    Cases   ( 10,123,544)
    Deaths   ( 146,778)


    Cases   ( 2,505,875)
    Deaths   ( 61,978)


    Cases   ( 2,149,551)
    Deaths   ( 69,051)


    Cases   ( 1,587,908)
    Deaths   ( 29,127)


    Cases   ( 1,338,426)
    Deaths   ( 119,495)


    Cases   ( 528,354)
    Deaths   ( 14,596)


    Cases   ( 86,882)
    Deaths   ( 4,634)

  3. ltr

    December 23, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    UK   ( 1,015)
    US   ( 1,007)
    France   ( 949)
    Mexico   ( 922)

    Canada   ( 385)
    Germany   ( 347)
    India   ( 106)
    China   ( 3)

    Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases are 8.9%, 3.2% and 2.5% for Mexico, the United Kingdom and France respectively.

  4. ltr

    December 24, 2020

    Chinese mainland reports 17 new COVID-19 cases

    The Chinese mainland on Wednesday recorded 17 new COVID-19 cases, including 11 from overseas and 6 locally transmitted, the National Health Commission announced on Thursday.

    The 6 locally-transmitted cases were recorded in northeast China’s Liaoning Province.

    Nineteen new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were also recorded, while 229 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation.

    No COVID-19 deaths were registered on Wednesday. Meanwhile, 22 patients were discharged from hospitals. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 86,899, with 4,634 deaths.

    Chinese mainland new imported cases

    Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases

    [ There has been no coronavirus death on the Chinese mainland since the beginning of May.  Since the beginning of June there have been 7 limited community clusters of infections, each of which was an immediate focus of mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine, with each outbreak having been contained.  Symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are all contact traced and quarantined.

    Imported coronavirus cases are caught at entry points with required testing and immediate quarantine.  Cold-chain imported food products are all checked and tracked through distribution.  The flow of imported cases to China is low, but has been persistent.

    There are now 315 active coronavirus cases in all on the Chinese mainland, 6 of which cases are classed as serious or critical. ]

  5. ltr

    December 23, 2020

    Black Doctor Dies of Covid-19 After Complaining of Racist Treatment
    “He made me feel like a drug addict,” Dr. Susan Moore said, accusing a white doctor of downplaying her complaints of pain and suggesting she should be discharged.
    By John Eligon

    Lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube hugging her nostrils, the Black patient gazed into her smartphone and, with a strained voice, complained of an experience all too common among Black people in America.

    Susan Moore, the patient, said the white doctor at the hospital in suburban Indianapolis where she was being treated for Covid-19 had downplayed her complaints of pain. He told her that he felt uncomfortable giving her more narcotics, she said, and suggested that she would be discharged.

    “I was crushed,” she said in a video posted to Facebook. “He made me feel like I was a drug addict.”

    In her post, which has since circulated widely on social media, she showed a command of complicated medical terminology and an intricate knowledge of treatment protocols as she detailed the ways in which she had advocated for herself with the medical staff. She knew what to ask for because she, too, was a medical doctor.

    But that was not enough to get her treatment and respect she said she deserved. “I put forth and I maintain if I was white,” she said in the video, “I wouldn’t have to go through that.”

    After Dr. Moore, 52, complained about her treatment, she received care that she said “adequately treated” her pain. She was eventually sent home, and on Sunday, just more than two weeks after posting the video, Dr. Moore died of complications from Covid-19, said her son, Henry Muhammed….

  6. rjs

    the drop in November PCE notwithstanding, it was still well above that of the 3rd quarter…the full PDF accompanying yesterday’s income and outlays report provides monthly and quarterly PCE figures in 20112$ in tables 7 & 8, making an accurate estimate of its impact on GDP easy…
    the 2012 dollar figures for October and November were 13,099.2 billion and 13,040.7 billion respectively, while real PCE for the 3rd quarter was represented by 12,924.7 billion in chained 2012 dollars…hence, to figure the annual growth rate of those two months, the math is (((13,040.7 + 13,099.2) / 2) / 12,924.7) ^ 4 = 1.0457 …that 4.57% growth rate of real PCE would add 3.17 percentage points to the GDP growth rate of the 4th quarter, in the unlike event that December PCE doesn’t change from the October – November average

  7. PeakTrader

    Heard people are waiting up to five months or more for unemployment benefits and 75% of the claims are fradualent, adding to the backlog. A second $1,200 stimulus payment for Americans was needed months ago.

    1. Barkley Rosser

      Unemployment benefits? Well if Donald J. Trump does not figure out that he is now the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, as my latest post on Econospeak says, well, no way he will be a serious candidate in 2024 given that 14 million people will lose their unemployment benefits tomorrow, and many more millions, more than 11 million but number not precisely known, will lose protection from being evicted from their rental units,

      Yeah, Merry Christmas, you all, still the great holiday where i am for a little while longer.

      1. PeakTrader

        The American people should’ve got another $1,200 check months ago, but Pelosi wanted about $500 billion to bail out poorly run blue states first. So, take a number and wait, and stop blaming Trump for all the government waste and corruption.

          1. Dr. Dysmalist

            “Poorly run blue states”

            He’s been spiking his eggnog again and then listening to some holiday Yertling from McConnell. Not a good combo.

            IIRC, the states that feed the most from the federal trough, i.e., receive more federal grants than they pay in federal taxes, are mostly red ones.

          2. PeakTrader

            That’s a very ignorant assertion. Republicans work in blue cities too and the Democrats in the slums receive much government aid. Same with the states. Republicans pay to government more than they receive to support poor Democrats.

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: If you look at net Federal flows of support/taxation, you will see what have been coastal (Democatric) states have been net contributors, and Southern and interior states usually net recipients.

          4. PeakTrader

            Menzie Chinn, believe it or not, there are lots of Republicans working in coastal states or big cities and live in the suburbs. The slums are full of Democrats, who need lots of government services.

          5. macroduck


            Nobody blames Trump for all waste and corruption. It’s dishonest to suggest Menzie does.

            What you have done is to parrot a right-wing talking point. Regular readers are, of course, aware that you are little more than a parrot, with no ideas f your own. The trick imbedded in that talking point is to assert that blue states are poorly run while making no comparison to red states. So, which states are managed worse, red or blue?

            When it comes to educational performance, one of the main areas of public expenditure, Rebublican states generally perform worse than Democratic states:


            Health rankings? Uh oh, Republican states once again look like they are worse than those “poorly run blue states”.

            Violent crime? Aw, heck, Republican “law and order” governance doesn’t seem to work:

            So contrary to what you imply but don’t have the stones to say, red states are generally run worse than blue states. QED


        1. pgl

          Oh yea – Trump is not to blame for the corruption of those people he just pardoned. Or the massive deaths from COVID. Or the fact that the vaccine roll out is getting stalled from a lack of planning for distribution. How can Trump be blamed for anything? He is not more that a court jester who sucks at golf. Just like his mentee – Peak Incompetence!

          1. PeakTrader

            Face it, you like established corrupt and incompetent politicians, who kill thousands in nursing homes, because they can always blame someone else, like Trump.

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Yeah, Cuomo behaved badly in New York. But the states where Covid deaths rose all summer while they got under control in New York were almost entirely in the South or Midwest, states like the Dakotas where governors followed Trump in not issuing mask mandates and encouraging mass superspreader events like the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD, which has ben identified as the source of infections that spread widely throughout neighboring states.

            Overall there is no pattern of whether states are “red” or “blue” (a silly labeling dating from CNN in 2000, given that in the entire rest of the world “red” stands for socialism and communism). While the top three states in terms of per capita Covid death rates are arguably “Dem,” NJ, NY, and MA, so are the bottom three: Maine, Hawaii, and Vermont, with six of the bottom ten being Dem.

            Bottom line is that Trump is responsible for far more dead from this pandemic than Cuomo or anybody else in the nation. If Trump had done what other world leaders did and many governors did and strongly advocated mask wearing and social distancing, and he followed through by action in supporting this, probably that entire “second wave” bulge of extra deaths in the summer of 2020 would not have happened. This is many thousands, far beyond nursing home deaths in New York state. Among those dead thanks to the murderous Donald J. Trump? His one time rival Herman Cain who (stupidly) attended that rally in Tulsa where many got infected that local authoritiies in Tulsa recommended Trump not hold. But he is a murderous egomaniac, and had to do it.

            All of you Trump supporters must face that: Trump murdered Herman Cain, along with many thousands of others. This is what history will record.

  8. PeakTrader

    Some politicians want Universal Basic Income (UBI), e.g. $1,000 a month. That would be a big mistake, because it would reduce work or hours worked. It would be better to raise the minimum wage to correct a market failure, e.g. employers having all the bargaining power or real wages falling with rising productivity over time. And, too low wages cause slower productivity growth.

    1. pgl

      You love to make statements without a shred of research to back them up. Now if you have some research paper about to be published in the Journal of Political Economy – put up the galley proofs. Oh wait the editors of JPE used your submission to line the bird cages. A good use of your usual rantings!

      1. PeakTrader

        Pgl, you just make things up to spin your false narratives. Do some actual research. You may learn something.

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