May 13, 2019

Measured by Gross Domestic Product, the economy grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the first quarter, after growing at a 2.2 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2018. If you do away with the quarterly variations, the economy has been growing around 3 percent, and Consumer Spending – by far the biggest chunk – has been growing around 2.5 percent.

By recent standards these are good rates of growth, but they’re also low enough so that there’s little room for any slowdown before we’re in a recession. I continue to worry that consumer spending is mainly being propped up by growing levels of consumer debt.

Total jobs in April were up 1.8 percent from last year. Jobs were up 2.6 percent in business services, 2.5 percent in healthcare, 2.8 percent at restaurants, 1.3 percent in finance. Government jobs were up slightly, retail jobs were down slightly.

Jobs in manufacturing, though up 1.6 percent, are no longer growing at the hot pace of last year. And jobs in construction are growing at a slower pace that puzzles me because the overall level of construction remains low, despite higher prices for housing. Maybe it’s just very difficult to build more housing where it’s most needed, in tight urban centers.