Friday, November 14, 2008

Consumers, Recession, and You

October's retail sales numbers were utterly dismal, a record 2.8% drop in sales is just the beginning for the GDP meltdown. Once again, Nouriel Roubini has valuable information about the economic ruin ahead.
To bring back the household savings rate to the level of a decade ago (about 6% of GDP) consumption will have to fall – relative to current GDP levels – by almost a trillion dollars. If all of this adjustment were to occur in 12 months GDP would contract directly by 7% and indirectly (including the further collapse of residential and corporate capex spending in a severe recession) by 10%, an exemplification of the Keynesian “paradox of thrift”. If such an adjustment were to occur over 24 months rather than 12 months you would still have negative GDP growth of 5% for two years in a row with a cumulative fall in GDP from its peak of 10% (note that in the worst US recession since WWII such cumulative fall in GDP was only 3.7% in 1957-58). One can thus only hope that this adjustment of consumption and savings rates occurs only slowly over time – four years rather than two. Even in that scenario the cumulative fall of GDP could be of the order of 4-5%, i.e. the worst US recession since WWII. Note that the cumulative fall in GDP in the 2001 recession was only 0.4% and in the 1990-9 recession was only 1.3%. So, the current recession may end up being three times as long and at least three times as deep (in terms of output contraction) than the last two and worse than any other post WWII recession.
Any way you slice it, the economy is going to be very, very bad. Unemployment is going to skyrocket, possibly even double.

Obama will certainly take the brunt of the blame.


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