The economy’s stumble
Air pocket or second dip?
Oct 8th 2009 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition
A slump in September prompts thoughts of new stimulus
AFTER riding a wave of improvement since the spring, the economy stumbled in September according to the latest figures. Non-farm employment sank by 263,000, which was 62,000 more than in August, and the unemployment rate rose by 0.1% to 9.8%. Car sales tumbled as the federal “cash-for-clunkers” programme expired. Manufacturing activity cooled a bit.
All this is probably an air pocket; overall economic output almost certainly began to rise in the third quarter of the year and employment will eventually follow. Leading indicators such as the stockmarket and new claims for unemployment benefits are signaling recovery. But it is taking a painfully long time. “We will need to grind out this recovery step by step,” acknowledged Barack Obama on October 3rd, the day after the job data were released. To add insult to injury, the Bureau of Labour Statistics concluded that the economy lost 824,000 more jobs in the year to March than it had originally thought. That would raise the recession’s toll so far to 8m, or 5.8% of the workforce. Assuming no further revisions, the recession now holds the honour of the most severe since the Second World War—exceeding even the 5% loss recorded in 1948.