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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Economic Clouds

In the past week, the media have asked whether Donald Trump's birtherism will hurt Mitt Romney.  That's silly.  There is no evidence that ordinary voters either know or care about Trump's comments.  Trump has "overshadowed" Romney only to the extent that reporters say that he has done so.  Such comments are what linguists call "performance utterances" or "performatives" -- they create social reality rather than just describe it.  One example is Trump's own trademark phrase, "You're fired."

Meanwhile, far more important news is coming out. CNBC reports:
Jobless claims rose last week, private employment growth disappointed while growth was less than originally reported in the first quarter, according to reports that provide few bright spots for the economy.

Private-sector jobs growth came in at a disappointingly weak 133,000 from April to May, according to a report from ADP and Macroeconomic Advisors that adds to a bleak outlook for employment.
A day before the government releases its report for nonfarm payrolls in May, the ADP report showed that job growth continues to slow.
Economists had expected the report to show nongovernment jobs grew by 150,000.
"This number could have some weather payback in it, but I think basically it confirms and reinforces the notion that there was a sharp deceleration of employment in the springtime months," Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisors, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
Bloomberg reports:
The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes fell in April by the most in a year, indicating the U.S. housing recovery remains uneven.
The index of pending home resales dropped 5.5 percent following a revised 3.8 percent gain the prior month, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 42 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for no change in the measure.
Consumer confidence fell to a five-month low in May, according to a closely watched survey that showed Americans less optimistic about current labor market and business conditions, as well as the short-term outlook.
The survey released Tuesday by The Conference Board, a business research firm, showed an overall index reading of 64.9, down from 68.7 in April. Economists surveyed by had expected confidence to tick up to 69.4 in the latest survey.