One of the most encouraging bits of news is that the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index of house prices fell just 0.2% between April and May, the smallest fall in two years. Stable house prices would do wonders in reducing loan delinquencies, shoring up the banks’ balance-sheets and restoring the flow of credit.
Despite the good news, Mr Obama’s approval ratings, though high, are slipping. This, in part, is because the single most important economic benchmark, employment, remains grim, surprisingly so. Unemployment usually responds to economic growth in a relationship that was captured by an economist, Arthur Okun, in the 1960s. But it has risen more during this recession than most formulations of Okun’s Law would suggest.
The publication last week of revisions to earlier GDP data explains some of the discrepancy. The revisions show that GDP has declined a cumulative 3.7% since the end of 2007, thus tying with 1957-58 as the deepest recession since the Depression (before these revisions, the decline was shown to be 2.5%). Even so, Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, says that Okun’s Law would have predicted an unemployment rate of just 8.6% during the second quarter, whereas it actually averaged 9.3%.