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TL(PM) DIGEST: Job growth can't stop, won't stop
Plus how Sudan's nascent civil war might affect your red wine and chocolate, an empty royal coronation in Britain, and it's the end of the week, be happy.
1. A slowing economy keeps adding jobs
What happened? The Wall Street Journal reports on the new April jobs report showing that even in a slowing economy, employers added 253,000 jobs last month.
Why does it matter? The 3.4 percent unemployment rate—a decline from the previous month—reflects a robust labor market and strong economy. As the Journal writes:
The share of Americans in their prime working years, ages 25 to 54, who are employed or seeking jobs has climbed over the past year. The influx of job seekers is helping restaurants, bars and hotels snap up workers, after they struggled with acute labor shortages for much of the pandemic. Healthcare providers are also staffing up, replacing workers who quit or retired early.
Job gains at providers of in-person services, such as restaurants, have offset recent cuts at large companies such as Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Google parent Alphabet and Walt Disney.
Wage growth is still running above pre-pandemic levels but is cooling as more Americans seek work. Slowing wage growth could comfort Federal Reserve officials who have worried that strong earnings gains would fuel continued inflation above the central bank’s 2 percent target.
TLP’s take: Despite economic volatility, worries about banks and inflation, and general pessimism among voters, the American economy continues to chug along impressively. Politicians in both parties could easily wreck things, however, either by defaulting on the public debt or taking drastic, indiscriminate steps to slash the spending and investments—public and private—that lead to good job growth.
2. How fighting in Sudan might affect your chocolate, red wine, and Coca-Cola
What happened? The Wall Street Journal reports that ongoing fighting in Sudan threatens to disrupt the world’s supply of gum arabic, 80 percent of which comes from Sudanese acacia trees. Trade in this “tasteless and odorless dried sap” that’s a key ingredient in food, drinks, and pharmaceuticals has ground to a halt since the outbreak of conflict last month.
Why does it matter? As one British commodities importer put it, “The concern is if we run out of gum, then we run out of business.” But another American importer says that the current fighting, so far confined largely to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, hasn’t yet affected the cultivation and harvest of gum, which mostly takes place in rural areas—but the fighting and a resulting tide of refugees fleeing through Sudan’s main port it has made it difficult to get the final product out of the country.
TLP’s take: It’s obviously not the main reason why the United States and other countries should work to bring Sudan’s incipient civil war to a halt, but the wider global economic repercussions of this internal conflict deserve due consideration. Scarcities of a single input can drive up prices for basic goods and add, however minutely, to inflation.
3. Britain’s empty coronation
What happened? King Charles III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be formally crowned in a lavish ceremony this weekend. Though media outlets will likely obsess over the pomp and circumstance to varying degrees, British journalist Nick Cohen notes, few Britons appear to be interested in the event: nearly two-thirds told pollsters they either didn’t care very much or at all about the coronation.
Why does it matter? As Cohen writes, the contrast between the absurdly inflated claims made on Charles III’s behalf harshly clash with the sordid realities of post-Brexit Britain: “All these grandiloquent titles are for the monarch of a small post-imperial country on the north-western edge of Europe that has been in perpetual crisis for most of the last 10 years.” In other words, the coronation is a ceremony that lays bare the diminished status and standing of one of America’s closest allies.
TLP’s take: There’s no reason to begrudge anyone’s interest in the theatrics of the coronation. But the absurdities of monarchy do make one grateful to live in a republic, warts and all.
4. It’s the end of the week—how are Americans feeling?
What happened? Polling firm YouGov regularly tracks basic emotions among Americans. In their last wave, more than half of Americans surprisingly said they feel “happy” (53 percent) with large numbers of people also feeling “frustrated” (35 percent) and “stressed” (29 percent).
Why does it matter? Feelings are obviously subjective measures, but these sentiments matter a fair amount to a person’s overall political views. While half the country says they are basically happy—mostly consistent over time according to YouGov—you sure wouldn’t know it from the daily news accounts or political discourse.
TLP’s take: It’s Friday. If you’re feeling stressed or frustrated, as many Americans do, it’s probably best to shut down the computer and phones and find something other than politics to think about this weekend. Enjoy!
Just one more thing…
Get ready for more northern lights: thanks to a shift in the sun’s magnetic fields, the aurora borealis could possibly be seen as far south as Arizona over the next couple years.