I just did a “teletraining” session for SABEW on the 2010 Economic Outlook with Greg Ip of the Economist and Rich Miller of Bloomberg (SABEW = Society of American Business Editors and Writers). The audience was economic reporters and editors across the country, and the goal was to talk about some key themes for economics coverage going forward. Both Greg and Rich made some very good points, which I won’t repeat here. I focused on three themes:
1) How fast will the labor market for college-educated workers recover? College-educated workers have been pounded, with their unemployment rate now at 4.9%. Unless something really weird happens in December, 2009 will be the first year where employment of college-educated workers actually fell (the current data series goes back to 1992). I don’t think that we are having a “real” recovery until businesses start hiring high-end workers again.
2) How much of the stimulus is leaking overseas, in the form of imports? It looks like people are rushing back to the malls again–but they are buying things like big-screen televisions, which are mainly produced overseas. In fact, given current patterns of imports, we should think of increased consumer spending as a potential negative for the economy, because it drives up the trade deficit and increases the amount that we have to borrow from the rest of the world (on a related point, consumer spending is *not* 70% of the economy. I’ll refer you back to a blog item that I wrote in my previous life).
3) County Business Patterns–if you want to understand your local economy, your best source is the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns
These underutilized numbers tell you, for areas as small as zip codes, employment and payrolls by industry. They have two big problems–first, they lag, so the latest data is for 2007. Second, the Census Bureau doesn’t want to reveal data on individual companies, so if one or two companies dominate an industry in a local area, the numbers are presented in a way that obscures individual company data.
But for figuring out the most important industries in an area, these figures are without peer.
Anybody who has any questions re economic coverage can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Added: Before the conference call, the SABEW folks asked me to come up with three blogs I like. Here they are:
“Beat the Press” by Dean Baker
“Econlog” by Arnold Kling, Bryan Caplan, and David Henderson
“Political Calculations” by Craig Eyermann