Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some weather, eh?

Can't argue with 62 degrees and sunny for Selection Sunday, nor am I going to complain about what things have been like all winter up here, as temperatures have been well above normal, with little snow and very little extreme cold. Wisconsin's had its 3rd warmest winter on record, and as NOAA tells us, we're hardly alone.

It's also led me to think that it's helped some of the economy as well, and I haven't been the only one speculating this. And while this might be the Spring Fever or some other goofiness going on, I'm going to do something unusual and lead you to a Fox Business report that asks if the good Winter weather is helping things along?

The report brings up some things that me and others have hit on as well. James Hamilton at Econbrowser backs up Shapiro's Fox Business report on how car sales have grown in the usual down months of January and February, as the weather isn't cold enough to make people stay off the car lots. In fact, 2012 saw an all-time record number of domestic cars sold in February, even above the pre-recession figures in 2006 and 2007.

U.S. domestic car sales, 2006-2012. (click for better picture)

And here's more backup for Shapiro's reference to the killer February retail sales, up 6.5% vs. the cold, snowy February we had last year.

And the comment about how the warmer winter is lowering seasonal layoffs is certainly backed up in the U.S. jobs figure\s. Check out these three seasonally-variable sectors in the last 2 U.S. jobs reports.

Jan. -281,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +21,000 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. -41,000 non-seasonal adjusted = -13,000 seasonal-adjusted

Jan. -62,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +52,000 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. +22,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +31,000 seasonal-adjusted

Food service and drinking places
Jan. -213,400 non-seasonal adjusted = +30,500 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. +96,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +40,800 seasonal-adjusted

Same goes for Wisconsin in last week's January jobs report, as I alluded to when it came out.

Wis. Construction
Jan. -8,100 non-seasonal adjusted = +4,200 seasonal-adjusted

Wis. Manufacturing
Jan. -1,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +3,700 seasonal-adjusted

Wis. Accomodation/ Food service
Jan. -5,400 non-seasonal adjusted = +2,400 seasonal-adjusted

That's about 2/3 of the 15,700 private sector jobs "created" in January in Wisconsin- it's not hiring, it's fewer layoffs than in a typical January. So the real question becomes this: Were there fewer layoffs because businesses see growth coming, or was this just more work due to a warm winter, and March and April will have job "losses" because the Spring hire-backs already happened?

So while I'm very happy to see the U.S. having these booming job numbers the last few months, and certainly the Obama Recovery has some legitimacy, we and the Walker folks both need to keep our optimism in check, as we could be seeing some "moderation" in growth over the next few months as the warm winter's boost wears itself out as the mini-stimulus that it is.

But I ain't gonna bitch about it right now. In fact, I think I'll get myself out today and much of the rest of the week to take full advantage. I think the Memorial Union Terrace is calling me for a visit or 2 or 3.

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