Matt O'Brien

A Tale Of Two Recoveries

[Guest post by Matt O’Brien] It’s certainly not the best of times, but the January jobs report is the latest sign that the economic recovery is accelerating. The headline unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 8.3 percent on the strength of 243,000 net jobs added during the month—with 60,000 additional jobs gained from upward revisions to past months. This was not a case of statistical quirks making the numbers look better than reality. The labor force actually expanded, and broader measures of unemployment fell as well.

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[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] I’m not sure this qualifies as a quiet room, but let’s talk about inequality anyway. More specifically, let’s discuss the taxes that some of the super-rich pay. The much-anticipated release of Mitt Romney’s tax returns confirmed what was widely assumed: He pays less of his income in taxes—13.9 percent to be exact—than do many middle-class households.

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[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] This finally might be an economic recovery worthy of the name. There have certainly been several headfakes before (remember "green shoots" and "Recovery Summer"), but, to borrow a dangerous phrase, this time might be different. Economic data has surprised on the upside for the past few months, and the December jobs report continued this positive trend.

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The death of North Korea’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Il, marks the end of his 17 years of strict control over the starved and crumbling state. While his eccentricities were often worthy of parody—the overblown legend involving new stars and double rainbows pronouncing his birth, thousands of books penned, and one strikingly good round of golf—his reign was marked more distinctly by the extreme suffering of the North Korean people.

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In the wake of rising dissatisfaction with Vladimir Putin and protests against irregularities in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, Mikhail Prokhorov’s decision to run for president was greeted with a lot of excitement. But, soon enough, paranoia set in: Is he a freedom-loving democrat, an opportunist, or just another Putin stooge? While the jury is still out on that question, one thing is clear enough: He’s incredibly rich, and perhaps like most über-wealthy individuals, he’s cultivated quite a few … eccentricities. Here are just a few that stand out.  1.

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It’s not yet certain whether European leaders will arrive at an agreement at today’s summit in Brussels, but what’s already clear is that Europe is running out of time. After two years of kicking the can down the road, contagion from the continent’s debt crisis has begun to infect Europe’s core. Indeed, the credit rating agency S&P recently threatened to downgrade the credit ratings of the entire Eurozone due to the increased risk of financial cataclysm.

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[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] Note: This post has been updated. First, there were “green shoots.” Then came “Recovery Summer.” Now, there are yet again signs that a stronger economic recovery may be gaining momentum in the United States, with the November jobs report offering the latest reason for guarded optimism. The headline-grabber was that the unemployment rate declined 0.4 percentage points to 8.6 percent. This was for both good and bad reasons. The good was 120,000 jobs were added in November—more on that in a bit.

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Did the Fed Save Europe?

[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] We’re saved! Or at least not doomed. For a minimum of another week or so. That seems to be the message as markets rejoiced after central banks around the world announced a coordinated intervention to inject dollar liquidity into the global financial system. But what does this mean exactly—and how much will it matter? European banks need dollars. A significant portion of their business consists of making loans in dollars, which they typically first borrow from abroad.

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Where's My Recovery?

[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] If it doesn't feel like a recovery to you, there's more good reason for that today. The October jobs report added to a long line of underwhelming employment numbers since the economic recovery ostensibly began in June of 2009. The headline number of 80,000 jobs added was, at best, barely enough to keep up with population growth. At this pace, unemployment will come down to less painful levels approximately never. That said, the news wasn't all bad. Private sector job growth has been fairly resilient.

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[Guest post by Matt O'Brien] Pay no attention to soaring executive compensation, or Wall Street bonuses, or even to the latest CBO report on income distribution: skyrocketing income inequality the past few decades is just a “myth”—at least according to Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute.

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