PERC Blog


Authored by PERC staff, the PERC Blog focuses on policy issues including fiscal policy, Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs, income inequality and Federal Reserve policy.

The Unemployment Rate for May in the College Station–Bryan MSA Tied for Lowest in Texas

Posted: July 01, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
In data just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in May for the College Station–Bryan Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was 8.9%, tied with Amarillo for lowest among the states’ 25 official MSAs.  Abilene came in third with an unemployment rate of 9.1%.  At the other extreme, McAllen-Edinburg...
Tags: Economic Trends

What’s The Beef? Economic Theory meets Antitrust Lawsuits During a Pandemic

Posted: June 25, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
“Grocers File Lawsuit Against Meatpackers for Violating the Sherman Act!”[1]  Plaintiffs claim that meatpackers conspired to limit the supply of and fix the prices of beef sold to Central Grocers and others in the U.S. wholesale market.  This is one of many such cases that claim...
Tags: Labor

Initial UI Claims Decline for the Tenth Week in a Row; Still High by Historical Standards

Posted: June 12, 2020 by Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The figure below shows the counts of initial unemployment claims in the U.S. from the week ending March 14, 2020 to the week ending June 6, 2020. The week ending on March 28 had the highest number of initial claims at 6,867,000, with the number of initial claims declining each week since that time. Last week, 1,542,000 workers filed a claim. Ove...
Tags: Economic Trends

This Just In: April Unemployment Rates in Texas Range From 9.2% in Amarillo to 19.1% in McAllen-Edinburg-Mission

Posted: June 04, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The figure below depicts the April rates for all of the Texas metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). These data were released on June 3 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only three Texas MSAs had unemployment rates less than 10%. Amarillo had the lowest rate of 9.2%, Abilene’s rate was 9.3% and College Station-Bryan’s rate was 9.4%....
Tags: Economic Trends

New U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Drop to 2.1 Million for the Week Ending May 23; Number of Insured Unemployed Decline

Posted: May 29, 2020 by Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the week that ended on May 23, 2020, 2,123,000 workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims. This is the eighth week that initial weekly claims have declined from the previous week. Initial claims averaged a week-to-week decrease of 13.5% since April 4th. The highest initial claims were recorded the week ending March 28 when they reached...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Dealing With COVID-19 in Texas: Goodbye China, Hello Sweden

Posted: May 27, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu
Among the many strategies undertaken by the countries in the world to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, two extreme forms stand out prominently. One is China's heavy-handed authoritarian approach which prescribes what individuals and businesses should and should not do with little consideration of civil liberties.  The primary goal...
Tags: Economic Trends, Health care

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall to 2.4 Million for the Week Ending May 16; Texas’ April Unemployment Rises to 12.8%

Posted: May 22, 2020 by Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the week that ended on May 16, 2020, 2,438,000 workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims. This is the seventh week that initial weekly claims have declined from the previous week. The highest initial claims were recorded the week ending March 28 when they reached 6,867,000.  In the last nine weeks, we have seen 38.6 million initi...
Tags: Economic Trends

Regrets? Yes, Regrets About the CARES Act

Posted: May 20, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen
An article in The Wall Street Journal says that Bill Gates has regrets that the world was not better prepared for the pandemic.  While clear when vision is 20-20, would we make the same statement without the benefit of hindsight?  Should the world have been better prepared?  Quite possibly, although it is hard to predict the occur...
Tags: Federal Debt, Fiscal Policy

Private-Public Partnership in Fighting Covid-19

Posted: May 18, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu
Mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic is a public health campaign that requires the joint efforts of both the private sector and the government.  Private enterprises provide creative solutions to a host of problems encountered in the pandemic, whereas appropriately placed government interventions take a social perspective in the fight against Co...
Tags: Fiscal Policy, Health care

This Time Is Different: Women's Unemployment Rate Tops Men's

Posted: May 13, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Starting with the recession of July 1981 to November 1982, and continuing with the three subsequent NBER-dated recessions of July 1990 to March 1991, March 2001 to November 2001, and December 2007 to June 2009, the unemployment rate for men has increased more during (or immediately after) a recession compared to the increase in the unemployment ...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Texas: the 2020 Fiscal Crisis

Posted: May 08, 2020 by Carlos I. Navarro
Contrary to what may be suggested, it is very difficult to assess public performance in an unprecedented situation. However, the natural law is constant in any equation. It is natural for humans to thrive in freedom. The right to enterprise, work and trade freely has been the most important variable when measuring the increase in real income in ...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Unemployment Rate in the US Hits Historic High Since Great Depression

Posted: May 08, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases an Employment Situation Summary for the United States. The summary released on May 8th, 2020, includes national unemployment estimates for the month of April 2020. The unemployment data depicted below are seasonally adjusted and are reported by the BLS. The last reported data point for t...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Over 30 Million Unemployment Claims During the Last Six Weeks

Posted: May 01, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the week that ended on April 25, 2020, 3,839,000 workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims. The revised count for the week ending April 18 is 4,442,000 claims. The highest initial claims were recorded the week ending March 28, when they reached 6,867,000. In the last six weeks, we have seen over 30 million initial claims, a number whi...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Unemployment Claims Over the Last Four Weeks Top 22 Million

Posted: April 17, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the fourth week in a row, millions of U.S. workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims. For the week that ended on April 11, 2020, 5,245,000 workers filed UI claims. The revised count for April 4 is 6,615,000 claims. For the weeks ending on March 28 and March 21, the number of initial claims were 6,867,000 and 3,307,000, respectively. I...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

The U.S. lost 10% of its workforce in only three weeks; Texas lost almost 6%!

Posted: April 09, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the second week in a row, seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims topped 6 million workers. For the week that ended on April 4, 2020, 6,606,000 filed UI claims. Last week’s revised count is 6,867,000 claims, and for the week ending on March 21, the revised number of initial claims is 3,307,000. In the last three ...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Unemployment Insurance Claims Reach Another Record High

Posted: April 03, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Seasonally adjusted initial UI claims reached an unheard mark of 6,648,000 for the week that ended on March 28, 2020. This more than doubled last week’s record of 3,283,000, which has been revised upward to 3,307,000. The initial claims over these past two weeks are as large as the first 28 weeks, or almost 7 months, of the Great Recess...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Unemployment Claims by State

Posted: April 01, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
For the week ending on March 21, seasonally adjusted initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims soared to 3,283,000.  While seasonally adjusted state-by-state numbers on initial claims are not reported in the weekly news release, the claims that have not been adjusted for seasonality are reported. These unadjusted initial UI claims are depi...

Our Fight against Covid-19

Posted: March 31, 2020 by Dennis Jansen, Liqun Liu
As of the morning of March 31, 2020, the U.S. has 164,610 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 3,170 deaths.  These numbers are not evenly distributed across the country. The State of New York alone has 67,384 confirmed cases and 1,342 deaths,1 becoming the newest hotspot in the Covid-19 pandemic, following earlier hotspots such as th...

A Staggering Increase in Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Posted: March 26, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The figure below presents the seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance in the U.S. for the first week of 2007 through the week ending March 21, 2020.  As is evident, there was an unprecedented increase in claims last week, to 3,283,000.  This is an increase of 3 million over the previous week, and this weekly numbe...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

How Did China Do It?

Posted: March 25, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
By the time a lockdown was imposed on January 23, 2020 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, ground zero of Covid-19 pandemic, five million people had traveled out of the city in the previous few weeks, according to the city’s mayor.  It was the peak of the pre-holiday traveling season, and Wuhan is a major transportation center in Ch...
Tags: Economic Trends, Health care

Coming Soon: A Massive Rise in Local Unemployment

Posted: March 20, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Bars closed.  Cinemas and theaters and sporting arenas closed.  Concert halls closed.  Graduations and ring day and parents/family weekend-all canceled.  Hotel occupancy dropping through the floor.  Restaurants struggling to make a go of it serving food to go.  Companies are hurting. But it’s no...
Tags: Economic Trends

Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Posted: March 19, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The figure below presents the seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance in the U.S.  beginning the first week of 2007 to the week ending March 14, 2020.  As is evident, there was an abrupt increase in claims last week by 70,000 workers from the previous week. While the initial claims reported for the past week will ...
Tags: Economic Trends, Fiscal Policy

Covid-19 and the Cost-Benefit Analysis

Posted: March 19, 2020 by Dennis Jansen, Liqun Liu
The novel coronavirus "Covid-19," first found in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has as of the morning of March 18, 2020 spread to 157 countries/regions with 207,615 confirmed cases and 8,249 deaths.  The corresponding numbers for the U.S. are 7,324 confirmed cases and 115 deaths, respectively.1 March 11 the...
Tags: Fiscal Policy

Phase One U.S.-China Trade Agreement

Posted: January 30, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
After twenty months of mutual tariff escalations and numerous rounds of negations, the U.S.-China trade dispute finally reached a temporary resolution.  The phase one trade agreement between the U.S. and China was signed on January 15 at the White House by President Trump and China’s lead negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.  ...
Tags: International Trade

NAFTA to USMCA

Posted: January 30, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
On January 16, 2020 the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was passed on a Senate vote of 89-10.  The new USMCA is an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and includes several notable changes. The new trade agreement comes 26 years after NAFTA became effective on January 1, 1994. While the provisions in the USMCA affe...
Tags: International Trade

A January FOMC Post-Mortem

Posted: January 29, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Media coverage the day following the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) action on January 29, 2020 widely applauded the Fed’s decision to maintain its target for the Fed Funds rate.  But the most important aspect of the December meeting was the decision to increase the interest paid on bank reserves, the IOER, from 1...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

Interest Rates and Fed Policy in 2019

Posted: January 27, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
The year 2019 was a year of declining market interest rates. In fact, 10-year Treasuries fell from 2.8% in January to a low of 1.47 in early September, during the period of the interest rate inversion. At that point, 3-month Treasuries were yielding almost 2%. The inversion ended in early October but the 3-month, 1-year and 10-year rates were al...
Tags: Federal Reserve, Interest Rates

A December FOMC Post-Mortem

Posted: December 12, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Media coverage the day following the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) action on December 11, 2019 widely applauded the Fed’s decision to maintainin its target for the Fed Funds rate.  But the most important aspect of the December meeting was to maintain the interest paid on bank reserves, the IOER, at its current l...
Tags: FOMC

Medicare Around the Country

Posted: December 11, 2019 by Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
PERC’s Medicare Maps have been updated this year using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Geographic Variation da...
Tags: Geography, Interactive, Medicare

A Year of Interest Rates and Fed Policy

Posted: December 10, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
The year 2019 was a year of declining market interest rates.  In November 2018, the 10 year treasury rate was as high as 3.24% and then it declined steadily through the first eight months of the year, reaching 1.47% at the beginning of September 2019.  Importantly, the Fed had raised its upper bound target for the Federal Funds Rate (a...

An October FOMC Post-Mortem

Posted: October 31, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Media coverage the day following the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) action on October 30 widely applauded the Fed’s lowering of its target for the Fed Funds rate. The most important change in the October meeting was reducing the interest paid on bank reserves, the IOER, by 25 basis points, from 1.80% to 1.55%.  T...

The Fed and Interest Rates: Where to Now?

Posted: October 25, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Since September, when the Federal Reserve reduced the top of the target range for the Fed Funds rate from 2.25% to 2.00%, a reduction 25 basis points, and reduced the interest rate paid on bank reserve balances from 2.1% to 1.8%, a cut of 30 basis points, market interest rates have continued to fall. As a result, the interest rate paid to banks ...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

Lifetime Implications of Childhood Peers

Posted: October 21, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen
“The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate - for the good and the bad.”  --Colin Powell   “A man is known by the company he keeps” ― Aesop   Wise parents tell their children to choose their friends carefully.  This has lon...
Tags: Peer Effects

A September FOMC Post-Mortem

Posted: September 20, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Media coverage on the day following the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) action, as announced on September 18, widely applauded the Fed’s lowering of its target for the Fed Funds Rate.  The most important change in the September meeting was reducing the interest paid on bank reserves, the IOER, by 30 basis points. ...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

The Fed and Interest Rates: Where Do We Go From Here?

Posted: September 13, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
As market interest rates continue their downward slide, the press is awash with predictions of how much the Fed will reduce interest rates at its September 17 and 18 meeting. The very fact that market interest rates are changing without Fed action begs the question of whether the Fed can even influence the direction of change in market interest ...
Tags: Federal Reserve, Interest Rates

FOMC July 31: A Post-Mortem

Posted: August 05, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
On July 31 the Fed announced a 25 basis point cut in both its target band for the federal funds rate and in its rate of interest on excess reserves (IOER).  The new IOER would be 2.15%.  Media coverage widely parroted the statement that the Fed had lowered interest rates for the first time since the onset of the Great Recession.  ...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

FOMC July 30-31: Ten Reasons to Cut Rates

Posted: July 29, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Speculation is running high regarding whether the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will cut interest rates – either the Federal Funds Rate upper bound or more importantly, the interest rate on reserves– at its next meeting scheduled for July 30 and 31.  Opinions are split on what the FOMC should do, and what they will do.&nb...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

FOMC June 18: A Post-Mortem

Posted: June 25, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
Media coverage of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s action on June 18 reported that the Fed left interest rates unchanged, with the Federal Funds Rate range holding steady at 2.25% -2.5%.  Unremarked upon by the financial media, and unmentioned in the lead section of the Fed's statement, was the fact that the Fed’s...
Tags: Federal Reserve, FOMC, Interest Rates

The Cost of Tariffs on Chinese Products

Posted: June 13, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Who pays for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods?  According to some in the popular press, the answer is that the tariffs on China are paid entirely by U.S. importers, and eventually by U.S. consumers.  This answer seems to be based on the observation that U.S. importers must pay the tariff to the U.S. Customs authorities before the imported...
Tags: International Trade

The Fed Must Reduce Rates Now!

Posted: June 11, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
The FOMC’s press release from its May 1 meeting emphasized that the economy was on an even keel, and that no change in the Fed Funds Rate target was in store. This steady-as-you-go decision was highlighted in the popular press. Hardly noticed was the small 5 basis point reduction in the interest rate on excess reserves, IOER, despite the f...
Tags: Federal Debt, Interest Rates

Reforming Social Security the Right Way

Posted: June 04, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Social Security (and specifically the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance, or OASDI) is in deficit.  We are collecting less in Social Security taxes than we pay out in benefits,  the trust fund is declining and is expected to be fully depleted in sixteen years, in 2035. Baby Boomers are retiring in record numbers, the number of...
Tags: Social Security

The Downsides of Minimum Wage Increases

Posted: May 10, 2019 by Jonathan Meer
The House of Representatives recently took up the Raise the Wage Act, which would more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years. The debate among economists over the impacts of minimum wage increases on employment is still ongoing, even as there is widespread agreement that low-income families need support. Bu...
Tags: Minimum Wage

Federal Liabilities and Individual Assets: The Case of Social Security

Posted: March 01, 2019 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Each spring or early summer, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees issue their annual reports on the status of the programs’ Trust Funds. The news stories that follow primarily focus on the year when the Trust Funds will be exhaust...
Tags: Social Security

The Cost of Democratic Socialism

Posted: February 20, 2019 by Svetozar Pejovich
A defining feature of the 20th century was the struggle between capitalism and three major types of socialism: Communism, national socialism, and fascism. All three types of socialisms, as well as Cuba and Venezuela today, failed to duplicate the accomplishments of capitalism in raising the standard of living. Yet, a supposed new brand of social...

The Little-Known Fact That Will Make the National Debt Even Harder to Tackle

Posted: December 19, 2018 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
The federal government is skirting dangerous shoals with an irresponsible fiscal policy. We are running massive budget deficits in a booming peacetime economy. These deficits are increasing our federal debt—which means we are also paying more to service the debt and more interest on every dollar of debt. While the Federal Reserve has be...
Tags: Federal Debt

Pensions Rescued by Borrowing: What Could Go Wrong with That?

Posted: October 02, 2018 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
A Tale of Two Cities   The dominant form of pensions for public sector workers are defined benefit plans. Such plans typically specify a retirement age and a benefit formula that determines the yearly payment to retirees. The benefit formulas are based on the number of years of employment, the average of their...
Tags: State and Local Pensions

How Not to Solve the Problem of Trade Deficits

Posted: July 09, 2018 by Dennis W. Jansen, Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The U.S. has run persistent trade deficits since the early 1990s and the annual trade deficit has increased to $566 billion in 2017.  This has raised concerns that our trading partners are taking advantage of us.  Since March, President Trump has roared about our trade deficit with China, equal to $375 billion in 2017, as well as China...
Tags: International Trade

Riding the Spending Wave

Posted: July 06, 2018 by Andrew J. Rettenmaier
The Congressional Budget Office’s recently released long-term forecast does not paint a pretty picture of the federal government’s financial future.  Deficits are expected in all future years as federal spending grows faster than tax revenues. The aging of the US population combined with rapidly growing per capita health care sp...
Tags: Fiscal Policy

Social Security Trust Fund Underscores Need for Reform

Posted: July 03, 2018 by Dennis W. Jansen, Thomas R. Saving
The Social Security Trust Fund is basically an interest-bearing I.O.U. from the U.S. Treasury to the U.S. Social Security Administration.  As long as general revenue is used to cover all shortfalls in Social Security taxes, the trust fund plays no important economic role in allocating resources, but may highlight the need for reform...
Tags: Social Security

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Posted: June 05, 2018 by Dennis W. Jansen, Andrew J. Rettenmaier
Economists often counsel that we should look at 'revealed preferences,' the idea that actions speak louder than words.  What does this viewpoint tell us about our commitment to fiscal responsibility since last January? Recent actions by Congress have both lowered tax revenues and raised previously set spending caps....
Tags: Fiscal Policy

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