Economy

By John Crudele
June 3, 2015 | 10:26pm

Anyone with even a quarter of a brain now understands that the US economy got off to a bad start this year.

There was an economic contraction in the first three months — when the nation’s gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent — that some quarter-brainers are still blaming on the cold weather, strikes at ports, the strong dollar, solar flares, Martian landings and (insert your own poor excuse here).

The truth: Most of these excuses are part of the problem, although I didn’t personally see or not see the Martians.

But the biggest part is that people don’t have enough money to spend. Interest from savings is down to zero, people don’t liquidate stock gains to make purchases, and job and income growth has been sketchy.

The economy isn’t doing much better in the current quarter either. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, an independent observer if ever there was one, measures growth so far in the second quarter at an annual rate of just 1.1 percent. That means growth — un-annualized — is a paltry 0.275 percent with less than four weeks left in the quarter.

It’s quite possible that we will eventually be told, after all revisions are made, that the economy met the official definition of a recession in the first half of 2015, which is two straight quarters of contractions.

But the quarter-brainers will probably get something to cheer about when Friday’s employment numbers come out. And, if they don’t strain their quarter-brains looking too deeply into the numbers, they could come away with a smile that can only happen because ignorance is bliss.

Wall Street expects the Labor Department to report that 235,000 new jobs were created in May. That would be higher than the 223,000 new jobs that — before any revisions are made — were created in April.

I’ve written before about the so-called birth/death model, which is the government’s fist-on-the-scale way of adding jobs they assume but can’t prove exist when new companies suddenly come into business in springtime.

The only problem is, entrepreneurs — especially those just starting out and risking their own capital — aren’t very daring when it’s clear to everyone that the economy isn’t doing well. So maybe, just maybe, there are more companies dying this spring than being born.

Labor must be having some second thoughts about the validity of that model since it guessed that only 213,000 phantom jobs were created by newly born companies in April. That’s way down from the 263,000-phantom-job guesstimate in April 2014.

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