When Can We Expect the Next Recession?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) officially tracks the performance of the U.S. economy for the purpose of identifying the timing of the troughs and peaks, which determine when recessions occur.  Specifically, NBER identifies:
• The length of the contraction, peak to trough.
• The length of the expansion, trough to peak.
• The length of the cycle, peak to peak.
• The length of the cycle, trough to trough.

They don’t predict when the next recession will occur. Instead, they will announce when the most recent recession has started and ended after-the-fact.

The following table shows NBER data since the end of World War II.

1-Peak 2- Trough 3-Contraction- Peak to Trough 4-Expansion- Trough to Peak 5-Cycle- Peak to Peak 6-Cycle-Trough to Trough
November 1948(IV) October 1949 (IV) 11 37 48 45
July 1953(II) May 1954 (II) 10 45 55 56
August 1957(III) April 1958 (II) 8 39 47 49
April 1960(II) February 1961 (I) 10 24 34 32
December 1969(IV) November 1970 (IV) 11 106 117 116
November 1973(IV) March 1975 (I) 16 36 52 47
January 1980(I) July 1980 (III) 6 58 64 74
July 1981(III) November 1982 (IV) 16 12 28 18
July 1990(III) March 1991(I) 8 92 100 108
March 2001(I) November 2001 (IV) 8 120 128 128
December 2007 (IV) June 2009 (II) 18 73 91 81

Note: Column 5 is the sum of column 3 and column 4 of the same line. Column 6 is the sum of column 3 of the previous line and column 4 of the same line.

In addition, the contraction and expansion data is shown in the following chart.

The next recession

So, when is the next recession?

Recessions are not determined by mathematical equations or charts, rather they are determined by economic conditions that cause the business cycle to move up and down. Since the end of World War II, the length of the shortest business cycle is 18 months (peak from previous peak) and the length of the longest business cycle is 128 months.

Today the U.S. is somewhere in between the shortest and the longest time frame for a business cycle.

The most recent peak was in December 2007. Seven years, or 84 months have passed since the last peak.

The most recent trough was June 2009. Six and a half years, or 66 months have passed since the last trough.

If the length of current and future business cycles is similar to the length of past business cycles, then it is likely the U.S. will see the next recession before the end of Governor Hickenlooper’s term in office.

While it is possible for the next recession to occur prior to the 2016 election, both parties are incented to take every possible step to prevent that from happening.

When is the next recession? Stay tuned!




Leisure and Hospitality Leads the Recovery

The Leisure and Hospitality (L&H) Sector has played a critical role in the recovery of the national and state economies. It is important because of the number of jobs added and because it is part of the economy in every county in the state.

Nationally, seasonally adjusted employment peaked in December 2008 at 13,560,000 workers. The number of workers declined with the Great Recession and in March 2012 employment surpassed that previous peak, reaching 13,587,000. It took 50 months for the sector to go from peak-to-trough-to-peak.

There was a similar pattern for Colorado. L&H employment peaked in May 2009 at 276,000. L&H Employment declined with the recession and in January 2012 it surpassed the prior peak at 277,800. It took 44 months for the state sector to recover.

While 50 and 44 months is a long time, it is possible that the overall state economy may take close to six years before it reaches the 2006 peak.

Nationally, the time from peak to trough was 24 months, or two years. During this time 637,000 jobs were lost. The recovery period was slightly longer, 26 months.

At the state level, the time from peak-to-trough was 20 months. About 16,000 jobs were lost during this period. The recovery period was 24 months.

It is depressing to consider some of these number; however, it is even more unsettling to think that these numbers describe one of the state’s stronger sectors.

For additional information on the overall state economy go to the cber.co website.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Chance of Recession Recedes – The Conference Board

There are signs the economy is improving. The unemployment rate is trending downward, retail sales are trending upward, and manufacturing has added jobs in 2012. For the 220,000+ unemployed Coloradans and those who aren’t captured in the UI numbers, it feels like the Great Recession never ended.

In recent months, The Conference Board (TChad demonstrated an ability to more accurately assess the economy than other groups. As a result, people took notice when they pushed the odds of another downturn up to 52% in October. A short-term historical look at TCB’s chance of recession statistics follows:
• July   17%
• August   33%
• September  45%
• October  52%
• November 32%
• December     9%

It is good news that the November and December percentages dropped off significantly. If a recession had occurred, it would have been short and shallow – barring a major shock. The economy has performed at a subpar level for so long and the recovery has been so weak that there would be little room for further deterioration in the event of another downturn.

Within the past month there has been reason to be more upbeat. Patience will continue to be a virtue as Coloradans weather the recovery.


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Recession or Continued Weak Growth?

Employment data released in July showed that June marked the 9th consecutive month of job growth for the U.S. Over the past 18 months almost 1.8 million jobs have been added, yet total employment remains about 7.0 million below the January 2008 peak. From an employment perspective, the recovery has yet to gain traction.

Gary Shilling, economist and contributor to Forbes and other major business publications, has now indicated that a recession is on tap for 2012 On the other hand, the Conference Board feels the chances for a recession, based on the business cycle, are currently less than 1-in-6.

Shilling has cited the following factors as possible reasons for concern about the economy:
• Economic expansions typically last about three years and the U.S. is currently two years from the end of the last recession.
• Stimulus efforts have not had their intended impact.
• Weak job growth (mentioned above). The magnitude of layoffs has tapered off; however, hiring is on an as-needed basis.
• Solid corporate profits are not translating into solid wage growth.
• Personal consumption has not fully recovered. Wealthy consumers are the only group to have resumed previous spending patterns.
• Housing inventory is too high – there are 2 million homes on the market that aren’t moving. This in turn has reduced housing starts.
• A 20% decline in home prices is on tap for next year. If this happens, 40% of mortgages will be underwater and consumer will pull back.

Assuming that the Mayan’s doomsday projection doesn’t hold true, Coloradans can only hope that the Conference Board has a better pulse on the 2012 outlook than Shilling.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Small Business Start-Ups on the Decline?

During a typical recession, the number of new or start-up businesses increases as some individuals start their own firms when they lose their jobs. As these start-ups become successful, job creation occurs, thus shortening the recovery periods. Unfortunately, the Lost Decade is not your typical recession.

On December 8, Aaron Smith of Moody Analytics reported that an analysis of BLS  data shows that the number of self-employed people fell from a peak of 15.5 million in December of 2006 to 13.7 million in October of this year, or a decline of 1.8 million. He went on to say that over the past decade, the self-employed have comprised 9.5% to 10.5% of the U.S. workforce, and today that percentage is closer to 9.5%.

Both Smith and others agree that small business sentiment is improving. For example, Vectra Bank’s Colorado Small Business Index has posted miniscule, but steady gains for the period of July through October. Despite increased optimism, small businesses do not appear to be thinking about expansion of capital expenditures, hiring, and increased inventory.

Assuming there is not a major revision in the data, this analysis raises a series of questions:
• Is this problem driven by a lack of demand or availability to credit? While both have been a problem, NFIB  research suggests that lack of demand has been more problematic.
• Is this reduction in startups tied to cutbacks in manufacturing and high tech jobs or might it be a function of increased dependence on imports?
• Has there been a structural change in our economic infrastructure that has diminished demand for start-ups?
• Is this a sign that the U.S. has lost its edge in competitiveness or innovation?
• Does this downward trend in firm creation exist in small-business-friendly states such as Colorado?

Hopefully this downturn in small business activity is just a brief hiccup, and that there will be a resurgence in start-ups in the near-term.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Job Losses Expected in 2011 – State Demography Office

The 2010 Annual State Demography Meeting kicked off on a somber note, when staff economist David Keyser;  announced that the state’s recovery from the Great Recession will be painfully slow.

Some of the key points from Keyser’s review of the past year (2010) were:
• Job gains occurred in health care, government, and education.
• Ongoing losses in manufacturing continue to hinder the recovery because they have a high multiplier effect.
• Low wage jobs were hit harder.
• Access to credit provided a challenge for many companies.
• Small businesses saw significant setbacks.
• Rural counties that relied on oil and gas or tourism (such as the Western Slope) suffered greater losses, while agriculture-based economies were more stable.
• The loss of basic jobs, such as manufacturing, will have a long-term effect on the state because these jobs are likely to be relocated elsewhere.
• On the other hand, the loss of non-basic jobs, such as retail, food and beverage, or personal services will return in the same location.
• Colorado will remain a popular place to live and work and net migration will remain positive, but slightly below previous years.

Looking ahead, key points from Keyser’s presentation for 2011 were:
• Non-farm wage and salary employment will decline slightly and a best case scenario is that it will be flat. Wage and salary job losses should not exceed 22,000 (1%).
• Agriculture and small businesses are likely to post a slight increase, offsetting declines in wage and salary employment.
• Construction won’t come back in the immediate future.
• Health care will continue to add jobs.
• Colorado will continue to be closely tied to the US economy.
• Many of the effects of the 2007 recession could be permanent.

Keyser’s forecast for 2011 is slightly lower than what cber.co projected in late October, but the basic analysis of the current state of the economy is similar.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Colorado to add 15,000 Jobs in 2011

In late October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its first estimate of September employment data for Colorado. Based on that report, the state is on track to lose 35,000 jobs in 2010. (Preliminary 2010 data will be released in March 2011.)

Recently, many of the nation’s top economists have revised their 2011 Real GDP forecasts downward, in the range of 1.9% to 2.6%. Output growth of 2.4% points to a miniscule job increase of 0.7%, or 15,000 jobs, for Colorado next year.

This Colorado economic forecast  was shared with state business and government leaders this past week. A summary of the responses from these individuals follows:

  • The country should be concerned about the effect the Lost Decade will have on its competitiveness.
  • The recent announcement that Q3 Real GDP was 2.0% is better than expected; however, if output growth continues at this level next year, Colorado cannot expect meaningful job growth.
  • The lack of overall growth in the economy is reflected in the real estate market.
  • Colorado typically lags the nation in entering and exiting economic downturns. Colorado’s exit from the Great Recession seems to be slower than that of the nation – despite lower unemployment.
  • For some time, I’ve been concerned about unrealistic expectations for growth in consumer demand, given the deleveraging overhang and unemployment.
  • Colorado’s major wealth creation industry – mineral extraction – continues to be hobbled by policy, yet Wyoming is projecting a healthy recovery in the months ahead- thanks to their policies regarding extractive minerals.
  • Southwest Colorado is no better than the Front Range.
  • The word that best describes the Western Slope economy is “lagging.” We’re used to growing faster than the state; recently we were losing jobs faster, although those declines have slowed.
  • There is a reasonable chance that Colorado will experience back-to-back-to-back job losses.
  • We are seeing more inquiries, which hopefully will bode well for our local economy.
  • We are seeing more inquiries, but they are not translating into sales – yet.
  • Efforts are being made to manipulate the housing and equity markets to create the illusion that the economy is better than it really is. The hope is that if consumers see their net worth rise, then they will start spending again. This makeshift effort does not eliminate the fundamental problems.

While these comments are not intended to be a representative sample of all Coloradans, they support the belief that the prospects for a solid recovery are not in the immediate future.


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Real GDP and Colorado Employment

Over time, there has been a strong correlation between the values of Real Gross Domestic Product and Colorado employment. Logically, this makes sense because both are growth variables that follow similar paths.

Employment data for Colorado was first recorded in 1939. In 4 of the decades since, (50s, 60s, 70s, 90s) there has been a strong correlation between changes in the U.S. economy and Colorado employment. In three of the decades, the tie between the two variables was weaker. This can be explained by a variety of economic disruptions:
• 1940s – World War II and the post-war effect caused the two variables to be out of sync.
• 1980s – Colorado experienced regional issues including an oil and gas boom and bust, savings and loan crisis, overbuilt housing market, and net out-migration for 5 years.
• 2000s – The primary and secondary effects of two recessions hit Colorado harder than other regions of the country.

Since 1939, Colorado has experienced net job losses 8 times. On 5 of these 8 occasions, the U.S. recorded positive Real GDP growth.

Colorado experienced job losses 4 times during the past 8 years:
2002    42,700 jobs lost.
Real GDP = 1.8%.
2003    31,400 jobs lost.
Real GDP = 2.5%.
2009    106,300 jobs lost.
Real GDP = -2.6%
2010    35,000 jobs lost.
Real GDP = 2.6%.
There was positive expansion in output in 3 of the 4 years that job losses occurred.

Recent forecast updates suggest that the U.S. will experience below potential output growth through 2011. This raises the question, “Has the fragile state economy recovered to the point where it can add jobs in such a volatile economic environment?”


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Transportation Industry Hit Hard

Previous blog discussions have focused on the relationship between the economy and two important components of Colorado’s transportation infrastructure, DIA  and RTD . The state’s transportation system also includes bridges, roadways, smaller airports, and mass transit systems – all falling under the oversight of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) .

In addition to infrastructure, Colorado has a very vibrant transportation industry, i.e. the companies that transport people and goods. Approximately 58,000 people, or 2.8% of the state’s workforce, are employed at 3,800 companies. They receive $2.6 billion in total wages, or 2.5% of the state’s total. Average annual wages are in the neighborhood of $41,000, slightly less than the overall state average. Some of the major types of companies include:

• 2,100 Truck transport companies
• 670 Transportation support companies
• 340 Couriers
• 250 Warehouse companies
• 200 Ground transport companies
• 140 Air transportation companies

About 60% of the transportation workforce is located in Adams and Denver counties, in close proximity to DIA, Front Range Airport, and the state’s major arteries  (I-25, I-70, Colorado I-76, and Colorado US 85).

Over the past two years about 10,000 jobs have been trimmed from the transportation workforce, a disproportionately high percentage of workers. Time will tell whether or not all of these positions will be recovered and the impact these job losses have on Colorado’s competitiveness.



©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

Net Job Losses Occur Beyond the Official “End” of Recession

On September 20, 2010, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) issued a press release that said, “The committee determined that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II. Previously the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82, both of which lasted 16 months.”

Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you first heard that news?

Because the criteria for determining a recession includes a variety of factors, it is possible for a downturn to continue to take a toll beyond the trough. That was certainly the case with Colorado employment in the past two recessions.

Seasonally adjusted employment data for the 2007 recession show that Colorado experienced net job losses of 113,800 workers, from peak to trough. Between July 2009 and August 2010, job losses have occurred in 10 of 13 months. Post-trough job losses have totaled 41,800 workers to-date and may go higher.

By comparison, the 2001 recession lasted from March to November. During that period, net job losses were 42,500 employees. Post-trough declines occurred in 15 of 20 months and totaled 60,600 workers.

In summary, there was a drop of over 100,000 jobs associated with the 2001 recession; to-date over 155,000 employees have been shed as a result of the 2007 recession. That is a significant decrease for a state that employs 2.2 million workers.

Looking forward, we can only hope that the expansion cited by the NBER is strong enough to include employment growth for Colorado in 2011.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.