With everything else that is going on in the world, a lot of people have failed to notice that we are seeing some of the worst economic numbers that we have seen in more than a year. For example, it was announced on Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits have hit their highest level in a year and a half. Hopefully this is just a temporary blip in the data, because initial unemployment claims tend to have a very strong correlation with the overall performance of the economy. We also continue to see poverty statistics rise. According to government statistics released earlier this month, the number of Americans living in poverty and the number of Americans on food stamps are both at all-time record highs. Meanwhile, the Dow and the S&P 500 are both down more than 5 percent since the election and the U.S. government rolled up 22 billion dollars more debt in October 2012 than it did in October 2011. The unfortunate truth is that things are not getting better. The U.S. economy continues to become weaker and more unstable, and there are a whole lot of reasons to be very pessimistic about our economic situation as we move into the winter months.
Let's take a closer look at some of the troubling economic numbers that have been released in recent days...
Initial Claims For Unemployment Benefits
The optimism that many analysts had about jobs is rapidly dissipating. Over the past few weeks there has been a huge wave of companies announcing layoffs. Just check out this article and this article.
But now we are actually seeing a significant rise in the number of American workers applying for unemployment benefits. Initial claims for unemployment benefits soared to 439,000 for the week ending November 10th. This is the highest level that we have seen in more than a year. The last time initial claims were this high was April 2011. It is interesting to note that the largest numbers of new unemployment claims came from the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Record Food Stamp Numbers
In dozens of articles I have carefully documented the steady rise of poverty in America and the steady decline of the middle class.
Even though our politicians insist that we are in the middle of an "economic recovery", the number of Americans dependent on the government for their very survival just continues to keep going up.
A few days ago, the latest food stamp numbers were released. It turns out that the number of Americans on food stamps increased by 420,947 from July to August. That was the largest one month increase that we have seen in a year. At this point, an all-time record 47.1 million Americans are enrolled in the food stamp program. What would that look like if all of those people had to actually stand outside in bread lines like in the old days?
Stunning Stock Market Declines
A few days ago, I wrote about how many wealthy Americans are dumping stocks and other financial assets in anticipation of the looming "fiscal cliff".
Well, if things get much worse we may soon have a "market crash" on our hands.
The Dow and the S&P 500 are both down by more than 5 percent since the election and many are wondering if things are about to get a whole lot worse.
Slowing Economic Activity
All over America there are indications that economic activity is starting to slow down. Is Superstorm Sandy responsible for this, or are there other factors at work?
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, economic activity appears to be contracting in areas that were hit particularly hard by Superstorm Sandy...
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index was minus 5.2 this month after minus 6.2 in October. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.
Things appear to be slowing down in the mid-Atlantic region as well. According to CNBC, manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region has contracted much faster than analysts were projecting...
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index slumped to -10.7 from 5.7 the month before. The fall was much steeper than economists' expectations for slippage to a reading of 2.0, according to a Reuters poll.
Any reading above zero indicates expansion in the region's manufacturing. The survey covers factories in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.
New Poverty Numbers
More American families are falling out of the middle class every single day.
New numbers that were just released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of Americans living in poverty rose to a new all-time record of 49.7 million last year.
Once upon a time, people would have laughed at you if you suggested that someday 50 million Americans would be living in poverty.
But here we are.
Soaring Government Debt
Anyone that follows my columns on a regular basis knows that government debt is one of my major pet peeves.
Well, despite all of the "budget deals" that have been made between the Republicans and the Democrats, the amount of debt that we are accumulating just continues to balloon in size.
The federal budget deficit for October 2012 was 120 billion dollars. That was a huge increase over the October 2011 federal budget deficit of 98 billion dollars.
How long can we possibly continue to do this?
Things In Europe Are Getting Worse Too
In case you had not noticed, the economic situation in Europe continues to unravel as well. The eurozone is officially in a recession once again, and unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time record high. Violent protests and rioting happen on an almost daily basis over in Europe now. The largest economy on the planet continues to implode right in front of our eyes, and this is another factor that will continue to drag down the U.S. economy.
So is there anyone out there that actually still believes that things are "getting better"?
The brief period of economic stability that we have been experiencing is rapidly coming to an end. The "recovery" turned out to be extremely disappointing, and now the next major downturn is almost here.