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Latest CommentariesSubscription required Subscription

PLEASE NOTE REVISED SCHEDULE: The pending Commentary provides new coverage on the credibility of headline economic data, based on private surveying and unusual twists in headline public reporting. The Commentary will be posted as soon as practicable, within the next day or so. Also covered are April 2018 Employment and Unemployment, the March 2018 Trade Deficit, Construction Spending and the Real Median Household Income series, all in the context of meaningful, new background material. The April 2018 ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate detail, Ongoing Money Supply M3 annual growth estimate and the Financial-Weighted U.S. Dollar are posted on the Alternate-Data tab. I apologize for the delay in publishing the Commentary. Best wishes, John Williams

No. 947: First-Quarter GDP, March New-Orders for Durable Goods, New- and Existing-Home Sales Subscription required April 27th, 2018
• The Consumer Suffered Heavily in First-Quarter 2018, Reflected in Contracting Goods Consumption and Unchanged Residential Investment • It Is the U.S. Consumer Who Fundamentally Drives the Economy, Not the Healthcare, Insurance or Financial-Services Industries • Consumer Liquidity Conditions Bode Poorly for Near-Term Activity • First-Quarter 2018 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Annualized Real Growth Slowed to an Upwardly-Gimmicked 2.32% from 2.89% in Fourth-Quarter 2017, Amidst Unusual Inflation- and Trade-Deficit-Reporting Patterns • Better-Quality Economic Measures Show No Economic Expansion • Some Pick-Up in the Velocity of Broader Money Supply • First-Quarter 2018 Real Merchandise Trade Deficit, Indicated as Worst Since Third-Quarter 2006, Backed Off Its Worst-Ever Reading • First-Quarter Real Durable Goods Orders Were Flat, Ex-Commercial Aircraft • First-Quarter 2018 Existing-Home Sales Fell by an Annualized 6.1% (-6.1%) in the Quarter, by 1.7% (-1.7%) Year-to-Year, Despite Gains in Wildly-Unstable and Volatile New-Home Sales Reporting • Major Downside Benchmark Revisions Loom for Series Such as New Orders for Durable Goods and Retail Sales, and a Widened the Trade Deficit; Beware the GDP Comprehensive Benchmark Revision in July  More ...
No. 946: March Retail Sales, Industrial Production, Freight Index, Housing Starts, GDP Outlook Subscription required April 22nd, 2018
• First-Quarter 2018 Real GDP Should Slow Much More Sharply Than Expected • Nothing Supports the Existing Purported Post-Recession GDP Expansion of 15.3%, Including Headline Production and Manufacturing, Retail Sales, Construction, Payroll Employment and Civilian Employed, Trade Deficit, Credit Growth, Freight Activity and Domestic Petroleum Consumption • April Consumer Outlook Took a Hit, Amidst Faltering Earnings and Credit • First-Quarter 2018 Real Retail Sales Contraction of 2.6% (-2.6%) Was Deepest Since Depths of the Great Recession • Real Sales Growth Backed Off from Fourth-Quarter Natural-Disaster Boosts, Yet, Annual Real Growth Also Fell Deep into Recession-Warning Territory, versus First-Quarter 2017, Which Was Not Disaster-Impacted • March Freight Index Continued Higher with Strong Annual Growth, Still Shy of Recovering Its Pre-Recession Peak Activity by 7.4% (-7.4%) • Given a Record 41 Quarters, 123 Months of Economic Non-Expansion, March Manufacturing Still Held Shy of Its Pre-Recession Peak by 5.4% (-5.4%) • Continuing in Nonsensical Monthly Booms and Busts, March 2018 Housing Starts Gained 1.9% on Top of Sharp Upside Revisions to February, Still in Low Level, Non-Recovering Stagnation and Shy by 42.0% (-42.0%) of Beginning Its Economic Expansion  More ...
No. 945: March Consumer and Producer Price Indices, Real Earnings Subscription required April 11th, 2018
• For All Employees, First-Quarter 2018 Real Average Weekly Earnings Contracted 0.4% (-0.4%), along with Slowing Real Growth in Consumer Credit • Quarterly Real Average Weekly Earnings Contracted 1.5% (-1.5%) for Production and Nonsupervisory Employees, the Third Consecutive Quarterly Decline, the Fifth in the Last Six Quarters • Unadjusted Annual CPI-U Inflation Rose to a 12-Month High 2.36% in March 2018, Up from 2.21% in February 2018, Still Holding Well Shy of Common Experience • Fed's Targeted "Core" Inflation Broke Above 2.0%, to 2.1% in March 2018, Highest Level in 13 Months • Annual PPI Inflation Rose to a 74-Month High of 3.03% in March 2018, Reflecting Jumps in Food Prices and Outpatient Costs • A Leading Indicator to Broad Economic Activity, March 2018 Real Annual Growth in Money Supply M3 Slowed to a Six-Month Low • Next Week's Headline Economic Reporting Could Lock in a First-Quarter 2018 Real GDP Contraction • Nonetheless, While Not Close to an Economic Expansion, Some Positive Anecdotal Evidence on the Economy Is Surfacing More ...
No. 944: March Labor Conditions, Private Surveying, Trade Deficit, Construction Spending Subscription required April 8th, 2018
• No Such Thing as Free Trade • Worst-Ever Quarterly Real Merchandise Trade Deficit Remained on Track, Fueling Trade "Negotiations" and Dollar, Stock-Market and Economic Concerns • Increase in Nominal Balance-of-Payments Deficit in Goods and Services Reflected Services Import of Intellectual Property for Broadcasting the Winter Olympics • March 2018 Household-Survey Count of Employed Declined by 37,000 (-37,000), While Full-Time Employed Dropped by 311,000 (-311,000) Rocky shoes • March Payroll-Jobs Count Rose by 103,000 (by 53,000 Net of Revisions) but the Gain Was Not Statistically Different from Zero at the 95% Confidence Level; Bloated January and February Payroll Levels Revised Lower • March 2018 Unemployment Rates Declined Month-to-Month: U.3 Eased to 4.07% versus 4.14%, U.6 Declined to 8.00% from 8.24%, and the ShadowStats-Alternate Declined to 21.7% from 21.8% • Private Surveying of March Labor Conditions Showed Weakening Annual Growth and No Economic Expansion • Mixed but Faltering Annual Real Growth in Construction Spending Continued in a Pattern Last Seen Leading into the 2007 Recession • Annual Growth in March Money Supply Measures Slowed Sharply; Monetary Base Declined Year-to-Year; Weakened Real Liquidity Growth Threatens Economic Activity  More ...
No. 943: Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Product, Gross Domestic Income, Trade Subscription required March 29th, 2018
• Fourth-Quarter 2017 Gross Domestic Product GDP Annualized Real Growth Revised to 2.89% (Previously 2.54%), Down from 3.16% in Third-Quarter 2017 • Fourth-Quarter Gross Domestic Income (GDI), Theoretical GDP Equivalent, Slowed to 0.87% from 2.44% in Third-Quarter • Fourth-Quarter Gross National Product (GNP), Broadest Measure of the Economy, Slowed to 2.71% from 3.65% in Third-Quarter • First-Quarter 2018 Real Merchandise Trade Continued on Track for Worst Shortfall in Modern Reporting • March Economic Numbers Should Disappoint Expectations • First-Quarter GDP Increasingly Looks Like a Contraction • Better-Quality Economic Measures Still Show No Economic Expansion  More ...
No. 942-B: Industrial Production Benchmarking, February New Orders, Freight Index, Home Sales Subscription required March 27th, 2018
• Accompanying Graphs Show Basic Nature of Upside Biases Regularly Built into Official Economic Reporting • Industrial Production of Recent Years Revised Meaningfully Lower, Dominated by Much-Weaker Manufacturing, Including Weaker Auto Production • Production Now Shows a Formal Double-Dip Recession, from a December 2007 Peak and a Brief, Oil-Production-Driven Expansion to a Now, Non-Recovered November 2014 Peak • Manufacturing Now Is Shy by 5.5% (-5.5%) of Its Never-Recovered December 2007 Peak, Still Holding in a Record 122 Months of Non-Expansion • Pending Negative Benchmarkings Implied for Retail Sales, New Orders for Durable Goods and the Gross Domestic Product • Signals Continued for First-Quarter 2018 GDP Contraction, as the Fourth-Quarter 2017 Disaster-Recovery Boom Turns to Bust • Real Durable Goods Orders and New- and Existing-Home Sales All Showed Unfolding First-Quarter Contractions, versus Fourth-Quarter Booms, Despite Monthly Gains in February • Real New Orders Activity and New- and Existing-Home Sales All Remained Well Shy of Recovering Their Pre-2007 Recession Peaks • February 2018 Freight Index Hit a Post-2007 Recession High, Still Shy by 11.2% (-11.2%) of Recovering its Pre-2007 Recession Peak  More ...
No. 942-A: Industrial Production Benchmarking, February New Orders, Freight Index, Home Sales Subscription required March 23rd, 2018
• Industrial Production Revised Meaningfully Lower, Dominated by Much-Weaker Manufacturing, As Predicted • Signals Mount for First-Quarter GDP Contraction, as the Fourth-Quarter 2017 Disaster-Recovery Boom Turns to a Bust • Real Durable Goods Orders, Both Aggregate and Ex-Commercial-Aircraft, Showed an Unfolding Flat-to-Minus First-Quarter, Versus a Fourth-Quarter Boom • Real New Orders Activity Remained Shy in Aggregate by 8.0% (-8.0%), and in Ex-Commercial Aircraft by 5.3% (-5.3%) from Recovering Pre-Recessions Highs • Still Shy by 11.2% (-11.2%) of Recovering its Pre-Recession Peak, February Freight Index Hit a Post-Recession High • Both New- and Existing-Home Sales Showed Large Fourth-Quarter Gains Turning into Large First-Quarter Contractions • Monthly New- and Existing-Home Sales Were Mixed, but Held Shy of Their Pre-Recession Peaks by 55.5% (-55.5%) and 23.8% (-23.8%)  More ...
No. 941: February Industrial Production and Housing Starts Subscription required March 19th, 2018
• Subject to Likely, Downside Annual Benchmark Revisions this Coming Friday, February Industrial Production Jumped by 1.1% (0.9% Net of Revisions), Reflecting Strength in Manufacturing and Mining • Given a Record 122 Months of Non-Expansion, Manufacturing Still Holds Shy of Its Pre-Recession Peak by 3.7% (-3.7%) • Manufacturing Gains Likely Reflected Some Inventory Rebuilding Against Weakening Sales, As Disaster-Recovery Bloat Passes from the System • Continuing in Nonsensical Monthly Booms and Busts, February Housing Starts Activity Fell by 7.0% (-7.0%), Still Shy by 45.6% (-45.6%) of Recovering Its Pre-Recession Peak • First-Quarter 2018 GDP Outlook Continued to Weaken • Nonetheless, the FOMC Appears Set for a Rate Hike on Wednesday  More ...
No. 940: February Retail Sales, Real Income, CPI, PPI and the Financial Markets Subscription required March 15th, 2018
• As a Weakening Economy Threatens Fed Policy, Watch the Dollar! • Headline Retail Sales Helped Put the Lie to the Happy Jobs Report; Recession Signal Remained Heavily in Place • February Real Retail Sales Declined Month-to-Month by 0.22% (-0.22%), but the Monthly Decline was 0.48% (-0.48%), Net of Seasonal-Factor Reporting Inconsistencies • With Three Consecutive Monthly Contractions in Place Real Sales Are on Solid Course for a First-Quarter Contraction, Increasingly, So Is the GDP • Real Average Weekly Earnings on Track for Third-Consecutive Quarterly Decline, the Fifth Headline Quarter-to-Quarter Decline in the Last Six Quarters • A Leading Indicator to Broad Economic Activity, February Real Annual Growth in Money Supply M3 Slowed to a Five-Month Low • Unadjusted Annual CPI-U Inflation Rose to 2.21% in February, from 2.07% in January, Annual PPI Inflation Rose to 2.77% from 2.69%, Well Shy of Common Experience, Still Dominated by Irregular Volatility in Adjusted, Monthly Gasoline Prices • Fed's Targeted 2.0% "Core" Inflation Held Range-Bound at 1.8% for the 11th Month  More ...
No. 939: February Employment and Unemployment, Private Surveying, M3, January Trade Deficit Subscription required March 9th, 2018
• Worst-Ever Real Merchandise Trade Deficit Looms, Pushing Trade Policy and Dollar Concerns to the Fore • Unstable Numbers Were Inconsistent with Related Economic Data, In an Otherwise Not Credible Employment and Unemployment Report • Non-Comparable, Shifting Seasonal Adjustments Bloated Payroll Growth • Payroll Jobs Jumped by 313,000, While the Count of the Household Survey Employed Jumped by 785,000, Yet the Number of Unemployed Rose, Too? • February 2018 Unemployment Rates Changed Minimally Month-to-Month: U.3 Eased to 4.14% versus 4.15%, U.6 Rose to 8.24% from 8.19%, and the ShadowStats-Alternate Held at 21.8% • Private Surveying of February Labor Conditions Showed Monthly Contractions, Annual Growth but No Economic Expansion • Fed Policy to be Pressured by a Faltering Economy and Dollar Issues • February Money Supply M1, M2 and M3 and the Monetary Base Slowed Sharply  More ...
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Some Biographical & Additional Background Information

Walter J. "John" Williams was born in 1949. He received an A.B. in Economics, cum laude, from Dartmouth College in 1971, and was awarded a M.B.A. from Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in 1972, where he was named an Edward Tuck Scholar. During his career as a consulting economist, John has worked with individuals as well as Fortune 500 companies.

Although I am known formally as Walter J. Williams, my friends call me “John.” For 30 years, I have been a private consulting economist and, out of necessity, had to become a specialist in government economic reporting.

One of my early clients was a large manufacturer of commercial airplanes, who had developed an econometric model for predicting revenue passenger miles. The level of revenue passenger miles was their primary sales forecasting tool, and the model was heavily dependent on the GNP (now GDP) as reported by the Department of Commerce.  Suddenly, their model stopped working, and they asked me if I could fix it. I realized the GNP numbers were faulty, corrected them for my client (official reporting was similarly revised a couple of years later) and the model worked again, at least for a while, until GNP methodological changes eventually made the underlying data worthless.

That began a lengthy process of exploring the history and nature of economic reporting and in interviewing key people involved in the process from the early days of government reporting through the present. For a number of years I conducted surveys among business economists as to the quality of government statistics (the vast majority thought it was pretty bad), and my results led to front page stories in 1989 in the New York Times and Investors Daily (now Investors Business Daily), considerable coverage in the broadcast media and a joint meeting with representatives of all the government's statistical agencies.  

Nonetheless, the quality of government reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last couple of decades. Reporting problems have included methodological changes to economic reporting that have pushed headline economic and inflation results out of the realm of real-world or common experience.

Over the decades, well in excess of 1,000 presentations have been given on the economic outlook, or on approaches to analyzing economic data, to clients—large and small—including talks with members of the business, banking, government, press, academic, brokerage and investment communities. I also have provided testimony before Congress (details here).

An old friend—the late-Doug Gillespie—asked me some years back to write a series of articles on the quality of government statistics.  The response to those writings (the Primer Series available at the top-center of this page) was so strong that we started ShadowStats.com (Shadow Government Statistics) in 2004.  The newsletter is published as part of my economic consulting services. — John Williams

 


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