See the trends of the US economy, looking towards 2020

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by Fabius Maximus
Summary: The course of US politics might depend on what happens to the US economy during the past three years. Predictions are difficult, but the trend is clear: the economy is slowing.
A glowing crystal ball held in two hands
By most metrics, economic growth peaked in January 2015. Here are graphs showing the past five years, all in terms of percent year-over-year growth. These show the trend, washing out the noise — but does not show the most recent changes.

Job growth

Growth in nonfarm payrolls peaked in January 2015 at 2.3%. In January 2017 it was 1.4%.
NonFarm Payrolls - YoY percent growth

Workers’ real wages

Growth of workers’ wages per hour — wages of production and non-supervisory workers (85% of all workers) minus the CPI — peaked in January 2015 at 2.3%. In December (the last month available) it was 0.3%. It was probably roughly the same in January (hourly wages were unchanged).
Real Workers' Hourly Wages

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Commercial and Industrial Loans

Growth in Commercial and Industrial Loans by banks peaked in January 2015 at 13.5%. It was +1.1% in January. The largest drop was from January 11, 2018 to March 8.
Commercial and Industrial Loans by banks

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

Improvement in this measure of consumer sentiment peaked in January 2015 at +20%. In January it was 2%. It is a leading indicator.
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

Average weekly hours

Growth in average weekly hours of production and non-supervisory workers peaked in January – February 2015 at 1%. In January it was 0.5%.
Average Weekly Hours of Workers

Building permits

Growth in new permits for private housing units peaked in June 2015. This is a leading indicator.
Building Permits

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The supply of money

M2 consists of M1 (cash and checking account) plus savings accounts, money market accounts, and small-denomination time deposits (less than $100,000).
M2 money supply

The OECD Leading Indicators look strong!

The OECD Composite Leading Indicator (CLI) for the US peaked in July – August 2014 at 101.0. It was 99.9 in November 2018. The CLI for the full OECD has followed the same path. Note: unlike the other graphs, this shows the absolute value of the CLI (not the YoY change).

Some leading indicators continue to rise

The big story: Durable goods.

Growth in new orders for durable goods are accelerating, after lagging throughout the expansion.
New orders for durable goods


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