With less than three months left before the 2022 mid-term elections, it is officially silly season when it comes to interpreting economic reports. For many analysts it’s pretty much all politics all the time, with data seen through a political lens first, and with real unbiased economic analysis coming maybe second, if ever.
It started off with those saying we’re in a recession because, at least based on the most recent reports, real GDP declined in both of the first and second quarters of the year. Never mind that the unemployment rate has dropped 0.4 percentage points so far this year. Never mind that payrolls are up an average of 471,000 per month, while industrial production is up at a 5.2% annual rate over the first six months of the year. Never mind that “real” (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic income was up in the first quarter (we’re still waiting for Q2 data) and has just as good of a track record as real GDP.
Ultimately, those claiming a recession started already wanted to score political points against the President and no other reports besides GDP would stand between them and that goal. Our view is that a recession is coming, that monetary policy will have to get unusually tight for the Federal Reserve to bring inflation back down to its 2.0% target. In turn, tighter money should induce a recession. But that takes time and the recession hasn’t started yet.
And now it’s the President and his side of the political aisle who are abusing economic reports for their own political ends. It is entirely true that the consumer price index was unchanged in July, the first month without an increase since May 2020. Fair enough. But to use that to suggest the inflation problem is going away is nonsense on stilts.
Energy prices surged 7.5% in June and then dropped 4.6% in July. That’s it. That’s really all you need to know about inflation in the past two months. As a result, overall consumer prices soared 1.3% in June and then were unchanged in July. But a new trend this doesn’t make. Looking at both June and July, combined, consumer prices rose at an annualized 8.1% rate. That is no different at all than the 8.1% annualized increase in April and May, before the extra surge in energy prices in June then the drop in July.