Reality audits are rapidly overwhelming the neoliberal euphemisms

Just over two hours ago, the US payroll data were released. Sometimes called the ‘non-farms’, these are officially audited statistics, not flakey PMI self-assigned perceptions and half-truths. They may have been audited and then bent (nothing is certain in 2016) but if nothing else they are the best guide there is to wassup. These are the headlines:

  1. Manufacturing payrolls are up by 29,000, and the overall participation rate in the economy is up by 0.1%. These findings are not contradictory: they say “no change, no progress”.
  2. US imports are up by $30m, and exports are up by $70m. At the scale we’re looking at, once again this says “no change, no progress”.
  3. The number of people employed by the Government fell by 7,000 – a number so homoaeopathic it means the same as above.
  4. The trade balance improved by $1billion. The trade deficit remains at $43.4billion. In other words, no change.
  5. Average hours worked by employees was up by 30 minutes. No change.
  6. Average pay per hour was up by 0.2%. So on an average wage of $20 per hour (that is almost exactly the latest figure) that 4 cents more per hour. No change.

On Boombust TV since the release, a multi-faceted debate has been going on about what the numbers mean; but only the delectable Stephanie Ruhle piped up with something close to the truth: “These numbers,” she observed, “tell us nothing”. She’s right in the narrow sense that there’s nothing new in there….but actually they do confirm a number of bearish sentiments suggesting that the monetarist neoliberal Establishment is engaged in the tricky craft of turd-polishing.

In recent days post Davos – faced with the reality that Hercules the mercilessly flogged horse isn’t clocking in any more – the ever-shifting narrative has now moved to what things are not. Chiefly, “This is not a recession”. Things are getting desperate when the MoUs have to resort to “This is the train to Auschwitz….but it is not the queue for the showers”.

Now I realise that having read that utterly disgraceful analogy, throughout the Western world 460,000 University students will be rushing out in search of post-traumatic stress counselling, but for me the parallel is spot-on. It seems to me there are also many other things the American economy – if I can employ an objective term here – still isn’t.

The operative word there is ‘still’. Uncle Tomobama told us in the early Spring of 2013 that the economy had “turned the corner”. In the Summer of 2014, ace fracking cheer-leader and monetary apologist Dan Hannan told us the US was “booming”. But having boomed around the corner, the overwhelming weight of evidence nearly two years on is that this is an infinite corner and the elephantine boom has given birth to a gerbil.

As I’ve noted before, the big, big change since Christmas is that the markets are no longer buying the vilification, bollocks and risible rationales of those who think a glossy stool can be passed off as a nutritious sausage.

Since the payroll data came out, both the FTSE and the Dax have slumped back into negative territory. The Dow has fallen half a percent, the Nasdaq 1.3%.

But ding-ding! It’s the weekend. They are saved by the bell….as usual.

I offer you all genuine wishes for the best weekend you can have. Overall, under the circumstances, and within the realms of possibility.

Earlier at The Slog: the death of redundant ideology is long overdue