We Just Went Through the Worst Month Since the Great Recession

We Just Went Through the Worst Month Since the Great Recession

The Fiscal Times/iStockphoto
By Yuval Rosenberg

We already knew the economy really struggled over the first few months of 2015, with March being especially rough. A new report from economists at Macroeconomic Advisers shows just how bad a month it really was.

The forecasting firm, which tracks economic progress on a monthly basis rather than just a quarterly one, now says that GDP fell 1 percent in March. “This was the largest decline since December 2008, when the U.S. economy was in the throes of recession,” its update notes.

The Commerce Department initially estimated that GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter. An updated report, due May 29, is now expected to show that the economy actually shrank over the first three months of the year. J.P. Morgan economists have lowered their tracking estimate of first-quarter GDP from -0.8 percent to -1.1 percent based on data released over the last two days.

Related: Why So Many Americans Are Trapped in ‘Deep Poverty’

As we’ve written before, though, the downturn isn’t necessarily reason to worry about the fundamental health of the economy, or at least it shouldn’t stoke fears that we’re diving into another recession. As the Macroeconomic Advisers report explains, “A sharp decline in net exports more than accounted for the decline in monthly GDP, as resolution to the West Coast port dispute led to a surge in imports to well above the recent trend. As a result, they write, they believe the one-month plunge “overstates the underlying weakness in the economy.”

That’s not to say the economy is particularly strong, either. Both Macroeconomic Advisers and J.P. Morgan now forecast second-quarter GDP growth to come in at a tepid 2 percent annualized rate.

Special Tax Break Zones Defined for All 50 States

Workers guide steel beams into place at a construction site in San Francisco, California September 1, 2011.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
© Robert Galbraith / Reuters
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. Treasury has approved the final group of opportunity zones, which offer tax incentives for investments made in low-income areas. The zones were created by the tax law signed in December.

Bill Lucia of Route Fifty has some details: “Treasury says that nearly 35 million people live in the designated zones and that census tracts in the zones have an average poverty rate of about 32 percent based on figures from 2011 to 2015, compared to a rate of 17 percent for the average U.S. census tract.”

Click here to explore the dynamic map of the zones on the U.S. Treasury website. 

Map of the Day: Affordable Care Act Premiums Since 2014

FILE PHOTO: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
MIKE BLAKE
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Axios breaks down how monthly premiums on benchmark Affordable Care Act policies have risen state by state since 2014. The average increase: $481.

Obamacare Repeal Would Lead to 17.1 Million More Uninsured in 2019: Study

A small group of demonstrators stand outside of of a hotel before former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, president of the The Heritage Foundation, speaks at a "Defund Obamacare Tour" rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.  August 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Nate
© Nathan Chute / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

A new analysis by the Urban Institute finds that if the Affordable Care Act were eliminated entirely, the number of uninsured would rise by 17.1 million — or 50 percent — in 2019. The study also found that federal spending would be reduced by almost $147 billion next year if the ACA were fully repealed.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about the budget at the White House in Washington
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Michael Rainey

Mick Mulvaney has been running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since last November, and by all accounts the South Carolina conservative is none too happy with the agency charged with protecting citizens from fraud in the financial industry. The Hill recently wrote up “five ways Mulvaney is cracking down on his own agency,” and they include dropping cases against payday lenders, dismissing three advisory boards and an effort to rebrand the operation as the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection — a move critics say is intended to deemphasize the consumer part of the agency’s mission.

Mulvaney recently scored a small victory on the last point, changing the sign in the agency’s building to the new initials. “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not exist,” Mulvaney told Congress in April, and now he’s proven the point, at least when it comes to the sign in his lobby (h/t to Vox and thanks to Alan Zibel of Public Citizen for the photo, via Twitter).