Business Cycle Indicators, Mid-May

April industrial production figures were released yesterday. Here’s a depiction of these figures in the context of key macro indicators followed by the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee:

Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment from April release (dark blue), Bloomberg consensus as of 4/30 for April nonfarm payroll employment (light blue +), industrial production (red), personal income excluding transfers in Ch.2012$ (green), manufacturing and trade sales in Ch.2012$ (black), consumption in Ch.2012$ (light blue), 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) (5/3/2021 release), NBER, and author’s calculations.

I’ve included the miss in NFP employment; discussion of why it occurred here.


22 thoughts on “Business Cycle Indicators, Mid-May

  1. ltr

    April 23, 2021

    Ravaged by Covid, Brazil Faces a Hunger Epidemic
    Tens of millions of Brazilians are facing hunger or food insecurity as the country’s Covid-19 crisis drags on, killing thousands of people every day.
    By Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance
    Photographs by Victor Moriyama

    May 16, 2021

    From India, Brazil and Beyond: Pandemic Refugees at the Border
    Fleeing virus-devastated economies, migrants are traveling long distances to reach the United States and then walking through gaps in the border wall. The Arizona desert has become a favorite crossing point.
    By Miriam Jordan

    [ How economically limiting to a sustained United States recovery might economic turmoil in a range of developing nations, especially in Latin America, be? ]

    1. pgl

      Wait, wait – China was supposed to send Brazil Sinovac but then decided not. And of course not one peep from you about this.

      1. Moses Herzog

        I knew ltr was standing right in the middle of the quicksand when he started trying to tie in China’s “heroism” with the situation in Brazil, but it’s kinda like suggesting Barkley not to bring up SAAR.

        1. pgl

          He? ltr used to be called Anne. Check those old Economist View posts and her comments back then were very similar.

          1. Barkley Rosser


            This has been pointed out to Moses several times, and indeed it is just screamingly obvious, with the whining absolutely identical in form when somebody gives her too hard a time from back in the days of Economists View. But you know our Moses, how he loves to obsess over rank nonsense he has convinced himself is true. After all, how many times has he triumphantly reported that a statement about equality of a distribution over a genome is identical to a statement about equality of a distribution over a population? He was at that hilarious nonsense again quite recently, even as this has been ridiculed many times as something just overwhelmingly and massively stupid, not just silly and clearly wrong. It is almost sad, especially given his repeated accusations about various people being s—-e.

            So I doubt he will he will be convinced that ltr/anne is a she even if a copy of a birth certificate and a photo were transmitted to us by her. After all, he spent a lot of time in China, so, wow, of course he is convinced he knows all about how she is a he (I admit she has never commented specifically on this matter, aside from calling herself “anne” both on the late EV and on Angry Bear, although I shall note that Menzie is convinced that “lr” and “anne” are one and the same).

          2. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Junior
            I bet you’re very good at collecting sample data for your research. /sarc But I hope someone else does it for you.

            As adorable as you two’s mutual admiration society is, you might be surprised how the bulk of this blog receives your convincing each other of your clairvoyance. In between the time you spend to declare each other geniuses, you might ask yourself if propagandists for a specific country might sound oddly similar, even though there are most likely thousands of them employed by the Chinese government. But you two are such magical leprechauns you can hear the thousands of similar voices and pin it down to one person. Congrats. Everyone on the blog is impressed.

            Barkley, are you working on your paper “How An Elderly Narcissist Can Differentiate One Internet Propagandist From Thousands”?? It’s sure to increase your chances for that Nobel Prize you currently have 0% chance of getting. Or maybe the Nobel Prize Committee sees bitter diatribes on EJMR the same as publishing quality research. Carry on then……..

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            General note to all: It is easy to see the publication record of commenters posting under their own name by consulting Google Scholar, or if you have access, Web of Science. It would be useful to consult such databases before disparaging research records.

          4. Moses Herzog

            Menzie, imagine a guy currently residing in Virginia (or Brooklyn if you prefer) comes to you with a very odd experiment. He has 5,000 units of Samsung Electronics Galaxy A52 5G smartphones. All 5,000 of them have the same ringtone, but if you dialed one of those phones with the same ringtone, only by listening to the ringtone in the warehouse where the 5,000 phones are kept together in a pile this Virginia man claims can tell you which phone you dialed by either pointing to it, or giving you the IMEI number for the phone. Now remember….. he doesn’t know the number you dialed, all he can hear/know is the same ringtone given by the other 5,000 phones. Do you deem this man intelligent?? Would you trust him to give you conclusions from a large population of data??

          5. Barkley Rosser


            I have seen you claim to have been around on Economists View, although frankly I do not remember you at all being there. Perhaps you posted under some other name.

            It is absolutely screamingly obvious to anybody who is not a complete idiot who spent any time there that ltr and anne are one and the same. She was long the most frequent poster there, and I had quite a few major debates with her about quite a few matters. I am thus very well acquainted with her style. It is absolutely identical to that of ltr here. There is simply no way they can be different people.

            Of course it is possible that “anne,” an identifier she also has used on Angry Bear while she has used “Anonmymous” on Econosepak (and I have seen her post virtually identical items both here under :ltr” as well as under “anne” on Angry Bear and “Anonymous” on Econospeak, although not recently) is not her real name, and that actually her real name is “Moses Herzog,” and she is a male relative of one of those Jews who lived in Shanghai and supported the anti-Japanese effort and later supported Mao. I mean, why not? Could be.

            As it is, while she has never absolutely confirmed her gender or even her ethnicity, she has at times made statements that make it look like she was born or at least raised in the US and learned about China here initially, although I imagine she has visited there if this is the case. Back on EV anne was always very supportive of the Chinese government, although not as much so as she seems to be now, and I even got in trouble with her several times over that, with her reacting to me on those occasions exactly as she has reacted here when people have pushed her hard on these matters sometimes. She also would post the sort of data wonkish things on economic issues of various sorts, with a highly similar viewpoint to what we see ltr doing here, with many of these posts both accurate and insightful,, if sometimes tending to repetition, just as ltr sometimes does here.

            Sorry, Moses, but you are really out there by yourself on this one, like you are on quite a few other things here. Lots of people here do agree with you that she is a paid agent of the CCP. I am skeptical of that, but do not know, and was kind of disappointed when at one point not too long ago it looked like she had actually made a statement about Hong Kong on Econospeak that looked like it differed from the official CCP line. I pointed that out and essentially congratulated her on showing some independence and even noted that this would increase her credibility with all the people on these blogs reading her comments about China. But she quickly made clear that no, in fact this was a slip and that in fact she indeed completely agreed with the official line. Clearly she very much admires the Chinese leadership, probably even more so than she did back on EV when she seemed to be the de facto main assistant of Mark Thoma. But I do not know whether this apparently increased fervor has been enhanced by actual payments or not.

            I am wondering why it is that you are pushing this silly nonsense about ltr being male. It may be related to something you should probably be congratulated for: I have seen that you have substantially cut back the wildly out of line attacks you used to make on various older powerful women, although you still occasionally snark a bit at Pelosi. My suspicion is that this is due to you figuring out that Menzie has gotten serious about tossing people off for making racist and sexist remarks, and so you have cleaned up your act on that a lot. Maybe this fear of not being caught going hard after a woman is inclining you to prefer to think that ltr is really a man so you can really sharply criticize “him” rather than being caught being a meanie to a “girl.” Probably not, but that might explain this bizarre obsession of yours to insist that ltr is not “anne” (or perhaps that anne was always a guy in gender disguise anyway). I can assure that is is not just pgl and I who think they are one and the same, indeed, I know of nobody else here thinks they are not who has seen her do her thing as “anne” elsewhere.

          6. Barkley Rosser


            Here is another piece of evidence that ltr and anne of Economists View are one and the same, ironically involving a matter you have agreed with her on and made several fusses about here. This involves Paul Krugman. I note that ltr regularly quotes Paul Krugman at length here, clearly a big fan of his, and most of the time those quotes are highly reasonable and I usually agree with him, a very smart and knowledgeable guy who writes very clearly.

            As it was, anne on EV also used to quote him at length in an almost identical fashion, just as she used to provide data wonkish links for various economic and other data as ltr does here, something i do not see anybody else doing in the same way, and I doubt the CCP went out of its way to hire some guy, not anne, to post in almost exactly the way here she always did on EV. Anyway, way back then in the old EV days I had a an argument with anne in which she got quite annoyed with me and said very similar things to me that you have done on several occasions here.

            It has to do with me having pointed out that Krugman’s Nobel should have been shared with others and that he had not cited earlier work in his famous JPE paper of 1991 that was cited in his prize, that being a 1988 paper by Masahisa Fujita in Regional Science and Urban Economics, a much more obscure journal than the “top 5” JPE. I think what set me off with anne back then, which was not long after Krugman had gotten the prize, and the issue was still kind of hot (it is totally yesterday’s news by now). I disagreed with one of these columns she quoted and she shot back at me about how dare I question this Nobel Prize winner, which led me to point out this problem with his Nobel Prize. That got her even angrier and we had a full-blown blowup that went several rounds. But eventually it settled down and we moved on, neither of us bringing it up again.

            So you brought that up here some time ago and have brought it up on several occasions since, another one of these matters where you think you are somehow scoring points and in the right, when you are not, even pushing the exact same line she did initially about how dare I question or criticize a Nobel Prize winner, shame on me, which led me to have to relitigate the whole business. I note that when you did this anne/ltr did not step in to support you, although she clearly continues to post statements by him on a regular business, and i do not dump on him over that ancient matter when she does so, preferring to move on.

            Oh, btw, since you seem to think I am barely functional, I did publish 7 times in 2020, I bet more than either Jim H or Menzie did. Some of those were book chapters, but some were articles in respectable refereed journals. And my latest book will be released from Springer Nature on June 24, you can order it on Amazon already with the cover visible there. I have not yet completely shut down functioning, even though you have me deep into s——y.

    1. ltr

      May 13, 2021

      Brazilian town proud of having mass immunization with China’s Sinovac vaccine

      SERRANA, Brazil — The small Brazilian town of Serrana, with a population of some 50,000, has been proud of undertaking a mass immunization campaign with the Chinese-made vaccine, according to Serrana Mayor Leonardo Capitelli.

      The CoronaVac vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac is the most prevalent in Brazil through cooperation with the Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute, a state government-funded scientific research center. The vaccine accounts for almost 80 percent of all the doses applied in Brazil.

      Located in the southeast state of Sao Paulo, Serrana is a sugarcane-producing agricultural town. Project S is the Butantan-led scheme to vaccinate the entire adult population of 27,772 and verify the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19.

      “It is a source of pride” to be part of the project, since it is “the only one of its kind in the world for tackling the pandemic,” Capitelli told Xinhua.

      “Serrana will have a before and after due to the project,” said Capitelli, describing the town as an “engine” of positive COVID-19 vaccine experiences.

      Between Feb. 17 and April 1, the Butantan Institute gradually vaccinated nearly every adult, making “a great contribution to science in Brazil and the world,” said the mayor.

      Mass vaccination in Serrana coincided with Brazil’s second wave of COVID-19 infections, especially in February and March, with the resulting saturation of hospitals, and record number of cases and deaths due to the virus.

      “The second wave hit us hard amid the vaccination, with full hospitals and exhausted doctors. But since the second dose was completed, the flow of patients has declined,” said Capitelli, adding that there have been no “serious cases” since April 11.

      Vaccination and the public’s cooperation in the town reduced an average of 90 cases a day to just four asymptomatic or mild cases.

      Immunization with the Sinovac vaccines, which took eight weeks, restored hope to the inhabitants of Serrana, perhaps Brazil’s most protected town against the coronavirus.

      “We have to thank our hospital, the Butantan Institute, Sinovac, and all those who helped turn our results into a model for the world,” said Capitelli.

      Local resident Najib Almeida Issa, 27, who manages a small restaurant and bar, told Xinhua that the vaccination campaign has provided this “oasis” with future prospects after more than a year of state-wide lockdown measures.

      “The number of sales, sales in general, orders and consumption are rebounding,” Issa said, and life “is returning to how it was before,” since people feel “safer to go out into the streets, do their basic shopping and enter stores.”

      Thanks to Project S and the Sinovac vaccines, Almeida said he felt less anxious and more secure, “knowing that one has been immunized and is not going to die from this.”

      Elvira Bidinello, a 54-year-old homemaker who entered her restaurant to buy traditional Brazilian cheese bread, said that business has picked up as residents feel safer about going about their lives.

      Bidinello said she also felt “more protected after getting vaccinated, although I don’t stop taking care of myself.”

      The fact that the Butantan Institute chose Serrana to test a vaccine developed in China felt like a “prize,” she said.

      “For us it was the greatest gift we could receive…

  2. ltr

    May 7, 2021

    A Small Brazilian Town Is Beating Covid-19 Through a Unique Experiment
    Serrana starts to return to normal as the pandemic continues to rage across the rest of the country
    By Samantha Pearson and Luciana Magalhaes – Wall Street Journal
    Photographs by Tommaso Protti

    SERRANA, Brazil—This town of 45,000 people in southeastern Brazil has been at the center of a unique experiment for the past three months: vaccinate nearly every adult against Covid-19 and see what happens.

    In recent weeks, after most of the adults here got their second dose, Covid-19 cases and deaths plunged and life has started to return to normal as the pandemic continues to rage across Brazil.

    In the heart of Serrana, children squealed with laughter as they chased each other across the main square, while groups of friends—many unmasked —stopped to chat and bask in the afternoon sun.

    Flying kites in Serrana, Brazil, where 98% of eligible adults were vaccinated for Covid-19.

    “We feel free,” said Homero Cavalheri, 68 years old, a retired architect who said he no longer spends his afternoons cooped up at home. He was strolling with his wife, Irene, and their 1-year-old grandson. “Everything is new to him,” said Mr. Cavalheri, clutching the boy. “He keeps pointing at all the trees and the birds.”

    The experiment in Serrana, a town in Brazil’s sugar-cane-producing savanna, provides hope for countries around the world still battling with coronavirus outbreaks that mass vaccination works. It also offers new evidence of the efficacy of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is being rolled out in dozens of developing nations from Egypt to the Philippines….

  3. ltr

    Dean Baker @DeanBaker13

    If we were serious about vaccinated the world, we would be immediately sitting down with Russia and China and every other country capable of developing or manufacturing a vaccine and figuring out how to ramp up production and delivery (1/2)

    7:21 AM · May 16, 2021

    The New York Times treats the issue as a joke. An article with four reporters never once mentioned Russia or China

    Hot Tip for the New York Times on Vaccines: There Are These Two Countries Called Russia and China

    I realize that it’s hard for reporters at the country’s leading newspaper to stay on top of the news, but this major piece  (four reporters) on vaccinating the world should get a Pulitzer for ignorance.
    For those who do take the issue seriously, China has already exported more than 650 million doses to the rest of the world

    China seeks to boost influence by filling ‘vaccine vacuum’ in poor nations
    As countries in Africa and elsewhere struggle to secure Covid-19 shots, China has stepped in.

  4. macroduck

    The dispersion among NBER indicators looks quite dramatic. In the 2008 episode, dispersion also occurred, but more gradually. We know that economic sectors were affected very differently by the pandemic, but what I’m curious about is divergence in recovery. As I’ve moaned about in an earlier comment, truck transport is a mess. The auto sector is a mess. Neither of these messes is entirely the result of the pandemic. Housing construction is running hot, as are home prices, but we were struggling with a shortage of land and labor in a number of fast growing metropolitan areas ahead of the pandemic and lumber prices are really, really high, though down from a week ago. The housing boom may have too cool do to supply limits.

    The goods side of the economy is over-represented in the NBER series, relative to the service sector. The lag in jobs and GDP relative to other indicators reflects the weakness in services which is likely soon to be ameliorated. That should help with my divergence problem.

    Policy makers can take a bow for creating firewalls this time to prevent a cascade of asset payments and prices when incomes were disrupted. State budgets are getting help from Washington, also an improvement over last time.

  5. macroduck

    China’s Sinovac is apparently not very good at preventing Covid-19:

    While the mid-point of the confidence interval on Sinovac’s effectiveness just edges into WHO’s acceptable range, the interval is WIDE, reason to doubt whether China’s vaccine is good enough to trust. Those results are from the lab. In the field, Sinovac performance falls short of WHO guidelines. Sputnik, on the other hand, looks to be over 90% effective, with a nice, tight confidence interval.

    Another technological embarrassment for China. Go ahead, ltr, call the data racist.

    1. Moses Herzog

      I know you 100% agree with me on this, are already aware of it, and I am telling you nothing you don’t know. But I feel it deems being said for the general reader. Chinese people are exceedingly intelligent, and if they were working in a healthy system of government, would probably beat America and Russia at producing a great vaccine. It is the system of government which ties their hands behind their back. I spent time there. People sometimes ask me about it (after they do their best to adjust their facial expression to normal after going wide-eyes [ internal thought “This guy’s a nutjob” ] when I say “7 years”. If you want to understand what the average Chinese person deals with, really in an unemotional and objective way~~~look up W. Edwards Deming’s “red beads test”.

    2. Dr. Dysmalist

      “Go ahead, ltr, call the data racist.”

      No, they will call you the racist for having the temerity to unearth the data and linking to it here.

      Then they will moan and groan about being persecuted because the CCP’s propaganda was questioned.

      Now to the OP. If there is such a thing as a consensus here in the commentariat, my impression is that it would agree that services and scattered, but crucial, input supply bottlenecks are the story. Also, I think most of us would agree that the lag in the services recovery is mostly on labor supply troubles including (mainly) fear of catching disease from unmasked jackasses and small children not being able to attend daycare or in-person school. Yes, there are other, ancillary causes but most of us would agree that they are indeed subordinate to those two.

      1. Barkley Rosser

        Dr. D.,

        Ah, very politically correct of you to refer to ltr as “they,” hedging that maybe Moses is correct and ltr might actually be a man. Or maybe you are covering for that ltr might have multiple personalities and might not clearly a man or a woman but some other gender category, perhaps a hypertrophied transformed integendereal hocus pocus or whatever. Anyway, you are safe on the pronoun issue.

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