Do government economic numbers make sense?
This week we are told by the government that monthly retail sales were up 1.3% in April overall and .6% excluding autos, gas, and food. I have trouble making sense of this number considering that stores of all economic levels have reported decreasing sales for February through April. This includes Kohls, Macy’s, the Gap, Nordstroms, and Penneys. Sports Authority and American Apparel sales were so weak they are liquidating. Sears and K Mart are excep[tionally weak and Walmart is flat at best. We have to remember that although Amazon’s sales and total online sales are going up they are still a very small percentage of the overall economy.
The government said that part of the reason first quarter growth was so slow -- ½% -- was because the American people were saving more. Yet we are told in other reports that 63% of people live paycheck to paycheck and don’t even have $1,000 saved. Where are all these savings going? With the savings rate so high and economic growth so slow you would think that people would be paying down debt or not borrowing much, yet consumer credit is rising rapidly.
Although GDP only rose ½%, the 1st quarter, the report shows that residential construction spending went up 14.8%. That seems very odd since consumers incomes aren’t going up very much and they don’t seem to have that much to spend.
With so much new building and so much being spent on residential construction it seems exceptionally strange that home ownership would be at a 49-year low.
We know how the government gets unemployment rates down. It reduces the denominator by lowering the labor participation rate. The rate is at a 38 year low and 2.9% lower than when President Obama took office.
I know the government seasonally adjusts all numbers but the current numbers make less sense than normal. The real world looks much different than what the government is reporting. I have no ability to gather all the actual numbers, but we should all remember that it is very easy to manipulate statistics.
Is it any wonder that less than 30% of the American people think the country is headed in the right direction when their personal situation doesn't match government statistics?