August 16, 2022

Economix: Podcast: Jobs, Greece, Japan and Mutual Funds

After months of bleak unemployment reports, bad news isn’t very surprising. But this bad?

The Labor Department’s monthly report on jobs and unemployment for June was a doozy. The rate of unemployment rose to 9.2 percent, its highest this year. And the rate of job creation plummeted. Only a net 18,000 new payroll jobs came into being in June, a number so weak that it would take years, at that rate, to put the millions of out-of-work Americans back into gainful employment.

In a discussion in the new Weekend Business podcast, and in an article on the cover of Sunday Business, Catherine Rampell says it’s worth noting that these very poor labor market conditions have not been accompanied by significant political action by the unemployed. These are not halycon days for labor unions, and unlike their counterparts in Greece and other parts of Europe and in the Middle East, where economic weakness has set off street demonstrations in recent months, people in the United States have suffered the indignity of unemployment rather quietly.

Conditions in Greece are poor and are likely to worsen, despite European efforts to arrange another bailout, in the opinion of Tyler Cowen, the George Mason University economist and frequent contributor to the Economic View column in Sunday Business. In a separate conversation, he analyzes the available options for Greece and for Europe over all, and finds no easy solutions.

In Japan, recovery efforts are well under way after the triple disasters of last March — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear breakdown — but the long-term outlook for the Japanese economy is not particularly good, Ken Belson says in another conversation. Just returned from Japan, he says investors may want to take note of a joke made by bond traders: No one’s lost money betting against Japan since the collapse of the bubble economy of the 1980s.

In the quarterly Mutual Funds Report in Sunday Business, Mr. Belson says Japan still has many strong world-class companies, which may well be worth investing in. But the country’s economic trajectory, once sharply vertical, may no longer be so promising.

Also in that quarterly report, John Schwartz takes note of a recent study showing that after politicians enter Congress, the performance of their investment portfolios suddenly improves. In a humor column, and in a monologue on the podcast, Mr. Schwartz suggests a surefire way of improving the odds that you’ll beat the market: become a member of Congress yourself.

And in another conversation on the podcast, David Gillen talks to Natasha Singer about the economics of a business that is a rite of passage for many Americans: summer camp. On the cover of Sunday Business, Ms. Singer focuses on the evolution of a camp in the Poconos that has been run by the same family for three generations. It’s a multimillion-dollar business that depends on keeping hundreds of children and their parents happy — a task that’s become very complex these days.

You can find specific segments of the podcast at these junctures: the jobs report (33:13); news summary (26:24); summer camps (24:08); Tyler Cowen (16:37); Japan (10:55); John Schwartz (5:16); the week ahead (2:17).

As articles discussed in the podcast are published during the weekend, links will be added to this post.

You can download the program by subscribing from The New York Times’s podcast page or directly from iTunes.

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