Gas Prices, Exports and the "Jobs Recession" Thing

This morning off the top of The Call on CNBC I was chatting about jobs and the economy with Larry Kudlow and Robert Reich. It was, as you might expect, highly amusing, with noisy positions taken all around, and little time to expand on things.

So, three quick points:

  1. First, Larry kept saying we may "technically" be in a "jobs recession". I tried to point out that I have no idea what that is, that it must be some sort of Larry-ism, but don’t think it came through in the cross-talk. But here’s the main take-away: Whatever a jobs recession is (and I’ll defer to Barry’s Kudlow-to-English dictionary on that one), we have never had eight months of job losses without being in a recession, so splitting things this way is semantic at best.
  2. Lower gas prices are good, as Larry said, but we are only back to prices that eight months people, ahem, were were calling outrageously high and economically damaging. So, while some of the pressure is off, let’s be clear about relative versus absolute effects of lower gas prices. Transportation and manufacturing generally are still being pounded, and that isn’t stopping.
  3. Finally, with respect to exports, it is true that Europe and Japan haven’t accounted for the bulk of the growth in U.S. overseas exports in recent years, so weakness in those markets is, while not a wash, less dire than weakness elsewhere. That said, the BRIC countries aren’t currently headed into a recession, but they are all weakening materially, as I have been saying they would for some time.  So, from a U.S. export standpoint, a 300 basis-point across the board cut in GDP growth in BRICs, which is what we are currently looking at, is highly damaging, even if you stay well away from recession.