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Economic Indicators

The Four Most Rigged Economic Indicators

On August 2, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will report the official unemployment rate. But this number doesn't tell the accurate story of the jobs picture here in the United States.

That's usually the case with government-produced economic indicators. Whatever the government figure will say, it will not truly reflect reality. Simply put, it's a rigged number.

When it comes to cheating the numbers, nobody does it better than Uncle Sam.

U.S. investors rely on accurate government data in order to make investment decisions in various sectors of the economy.

But what if these figures reflected negative headlines on a near-constant basis? It wouldn't instill much confidence. And it certainly would cost a lot of people in Washington their jobs.

That's why Uncle Sam plays games with the numbers and presents a far rosier picture of the world to low-information voters and investors. But we're paying attention here at Money Morning, and that's why we're holding a spotlight on the fuzzy math in Washington.

Counting down, here are the four most rigged government statistics in America today:

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How Helicopter Ben Helps Jobs and, Inadvertently, Gold Prices

The world's central bank leaders continue to spike the monetary punch bowl, with investors imbibing on gold once again.

This flurry of gold buying prompts many curious investors and doubting media to ask me two questions: 1) How can demand for gold and gold stocks continue; and 2) How high can gold prices go?

To answer these questions, we need to look at the intentions behind the economic and political decision-making across several developed countries, analyze the causes, the effects, and the possible ramifications.

For example, one of the most debated topics today is America's ongoing unemployment situation.

Job loss has affected the lives and pocketbooks of millions of Americans and our friends and families, culminating to a center-stage position in the election this year. All eyes turn to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to explain how each intends to create jobs.

During the two years following the Great Recession, Americans lost jobs at a similar rate to the employment losses during the Great Depression and in Finland after 1991. But two years after the crisis, U.S. employment losses stopped and reversed direction.

Compare this to the situations in Norway, Spain, Finland and Sweden, each of which had prolonged unemployment.

After Norway's financial crisis in 1987, it took 8.5 years to return to the country's employment peak. It took 13 years for Spain's employment to return to its 1997 peak. For Finland and Sweden, it took more than 17 years following their 1991 peaks.

Although the job losses in the U.S. don't seem as dismal, "Helicopter" Ben Bernanke wants to avoid Europe's and Japan's catastrophic situations.

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The Good the Bad and the Ugly Truth about the JOBS Act

It's about jobs.

I'm not just talking about the upcoming election and who is promising to do more to stimulate the economy. The entire future of America depends on job creation.

There are good and bad reasons why there aren't enough jobs.

Jobs have been lost because of advances in technology. Jobs have been lost because they've been outsourced.

Jobs aren't being created because banks aren't readily lending to entrepreneurs and businesses, and entrepreneurs and businesses supposedly aren't hiring because there are too many regulations and the future is uncertain.

All the reasons why there aren't enough jobs in America can be argued from both sides. And, while that's being done, arguing isn't doing anything for the unemployed.

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a pathway open, and hopefully soon to be widened, that bypasses all the arguments and does what our bickering partisan politicians can't do, create good jobs in areas where American ingenuity has always outshined the rest of the world.

The Promise of the JOBS Act

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act or JOBS Act was signed into law on April 5, 2012 and is the single best hope America has of regaining its preeminence in the world.

The JOBS Act has good, bad and ugly elements…

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Recession 2013 Looks More Likely After Weak Jobs Report

Every politician promises "more jobs" for the American people. This has been the foundation of virtually every speech at the conventions for both parties.

But what we really need are "more quality jobs" – especially if we want to steer the country away from Recession 2013.

Unfortunately, quality jobs don't seem to be around.

Last Friday's U.S. jobs report showed that only 96,000 new jobs were created in the United States in August when 130,000 were expected. That's dismal enough, but a closer look at the numbers shows just how bad U.S. unemployment is.

Turns out the biggest job increases have been in food services and drinking places, which added 28,000 jobs in August and 298,000 over the past year.

MIT labor economist David Autor said posting gains in areas like these doesn't translate to sustainable, quality job growth.

"They're numerous, but they don't tend to be highly paid," said Autor. "They don't have a lot of job security."

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Fiscal Cliff Could Cost You Your Job

While Americans stash extra cash to prepare for the economic effects of the looming fiscal cliff in 2013, another more immediate concern has developed: How many people will get laid off as companies brace for spending cuts and tax hikes?

The fiscal cliff will pack a double whammy to some businesses. Companies in certain tax brackets will be paying more to Uncle Sam, while some will see their government funding disappear.

The substantial fiscal cliff effect has prompted firms to rein in spending, delay projects, defer bids – and cut staff.

In fact, a study last month from Ernst & Young, the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business advocates revealed the fiscal cliff could slash 710,000 jobs from the already beleaguered job market.

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The Next U.S. Jobs Report Could be Awful for President Obama

After almost two and half years of adding jobs to the economy, could the next U.S. jobs report reveal a decline in employment? Money Morning's Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald appeared on Fox Business' "Varney & Co." Friday to discuss that and more. He analyzed job projections if the Bush tax cuts expire for the […]

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June U.S. Jobs Report Ends Bleak Second Quarter

June's U.S. jobs report released today (Friday) deflated the brief celebratory mood that followed Thursday's upbeat employment data, and ended a second quarter packed with weak economic figures.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that employers added a skimpy 80,000 jobs in June, much less than analysts' estimates of 100,000-125,000. The jobless rate remains at an elevated 8.2%.

The fresh data concludes a dismal second quarter.

In the first quarter of 2012, the average number of monthly jobs created was 226,000. In the second quarter that average fell to a measly 75,000. While job gains in April and May deviated little from estimates, June's data was significantly lower than anticipated.

"Today's report is the rotten cherry atop the half-baked economic news of the last few months," TD Bank's Chris Jones said in a note.

Roughly one-third of the jobs added in June were in temporary services. Manufacturing added 11,000, marking its ninth straight month of gains, while growth in factory jobs dropped off sharply in the second quarter. Healthcare jobs grew by 13,000 and financial services added 5,000. Meanwhile, retailers, transportation firms, and the government slashed jobs.

Friday's lackluster report came on the heels of some encouraging data.

On Thursday, ADP's employment report showed that private employers added 176,000 jobs in June — far exceeding economists' expectations of 95,000. Small businesses and service firms were responsible for most of the gains.

Another optimistic sign Thursday was the decline in the number of first-time applicants for jobless benefits. First-time claims dipped by 14,000 to 373,000, while the four-week average slid by 1,500 to 385,000.

Any optimism had faded Friday after the U.S. jobs report came out. The Dow Jones was down more than 180 points by noon.

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Recession 2013: This Report Shows We're Already Headed There

Recent reports have indicated a downturn in the U.S. economy. Coupled with fears stemming from the Eurozone debt crisis, they've fueled speculation about "Recession 2013."

In fact, former President Bill Clinton said he thinks we are already in a recession – and that was before the latest U.S. unemployment numbers were released, painting an even gloomier picture.

By now most of you have heard about the awful numbers in the discouraging U.S. jobs report for May, where only 69,000 jobs were added – nowhere near the 150,000 expected.

But what's worse about the U.S. jobs report is the trend of long-term unemployment.

Even though the national unemployment rate has dropped from its October 2009 high of 10.1% to its current level of 8.2%, the long-term unemployment levels have not seen a similar drop.

Without improvement in these numbers, fears regarding another recession will become reality.

How U.S. Jobs Trend Will Spell "Recession 2013"

Long-term unemployment, measured every six months, reached a peak of 46% of the unemployed population during May 2010.

That number has only fallen to 42.8%, or 5.4 million of the total unemployed, and has risen of late.

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April's U.S. Jobs Report a Far Cry from Where We Need to Be

Expectations ahead of April's U.S. jobs report were that it could deliver some good news about the U.S. economy. A robust number would have alleviated worries the economy is faltering the third year into a tepid recovery. But that is not what we got. The jobs report, released before the bell Friday, showed a net […]

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What U.S. Consumer Spending Data Is Telling Us

The markets slid yesterday on news that U.S. consumer spending increased by 0.3% in March, while income rose 0.4% over the same time frame. This is the first time since December we've seen income rise faster than spending.

I can't say I am entirely surprised.

As prices for "must haves" like gasoline and food continue to rise, consumers are digging into their savings to cope. This is not small potatoes, given that the average family saved a mere $38 out of every $1,000 in take home pay last month, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

I can't help but have huge concerns about Team Bernanke's plan; no amount of stimulus is going to overcome the struggle most families are having – which is to boost savings and shed debt.

Here's the thing… if consumers can't save, then they can't buy. And if they can't buy, they can't build up the nation's wealth, which is predicated on consumer spending.

All three sets of figures in isolation really don't tell you much. But when taken together – spending, income, and GDP – they suggest our economy is too weak to put millions of Americans back to work, much less in jobs for which they are appropriately qualified.

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