UPDATE II: The Fed is fashioning economic policy based on data collected from social media sources, which is highly misleading, a stock market researcher tells CNBC. An A+ economy? Try B- ….


UPDATE: Forty percent of U.S. adults don’t have the money to cover a $400 emergency expense, The Washington Post reports. “Wages in the United States, especially for workers who aren’t managers, have stagnated for two decades, making it difficult to save for emergencies, let alone save to buy a home or take extra classes to get ahead,” the paper said.


The Economy is humming right along, the government wants you to know. Unemployment was at 3.9 percent in April, the lowest since 2000.

The stock market seems to have regained its footing after a topsy-turvy last couple of months. Interest rates are rising but remain relatively low.

Turns out there are a few hairs in the soup, however.

Zillow, an online real estate data base, released an analysis last week showing that almost a quarter of all millennials, age 24-36, live with their parents, a jump from 13.5 percent in 2005.

“As rents outpaced incomes over the past decade, young people turned to their families in large numbers to ease the housing cost crunch,” Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas said in a news release.

Cup-Noodles-1.jpg“But even as the labor market has improved, the family safety net has yet to unwind. Living with parents may allow young adults to pursue work or a passion that may not be especially lucrative, or save enough money for first and last month’s rent or a down payment on a home of their own.”

The percentages vary quite a bit by region. For example, in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area of South Florida, the percentage shot from 15.6 percent in 2005 to 33.4 percent in 2016. In Orlando, the percentage more than doubled, from 10.1 percent to 24 percent.

In Chicago, it went from 15.8 percent to 26.1 percent; in Minneapolis, the rate jumped from 8.5 percent to 16.5 percent; and in Denver, it went from 8.9 percent to 15 percent. Los Angeles: 18.4 percent to 30.2 percent.

This week, United Way published a study showcasing what the organization calls “ALICE” families — that’s an acronym for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. They are above the poverty level but can’t afford what the news website Axios calls “the basics of a middle-class lifestyle”: rent, transportation, child care and a cell phone.

This group constitutes an astounding 40 percent of the American population, according to United Way.

“These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full-time,” reports Axios.

What about the historically low unemployment rate?

Job growth reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey offers very little meaningful information about the quality of the jobs that are being created. A 10-hour-per-week job with no benefits is counted the same as a full-time manufacturing job with health insurance and other bennies. (See the explanation by David Stockman, President Reagan’s former budget director, who writes the financial blog Contra Corner.)

So. We’re supposed to jump for joy that a bunch of jobs have been created that involve dancing around outside a vape shop with a sign to lure drivers into the store.

Sure, you take what you can get, but it’s not enough to build up savings to pay first month, last month, and security deposit on an apartment that’s probably going to cost at least $1,000 a month plus utilities, maintain a car and have enough left over to put some Raman Noodles on the table.

Obviously, many millennials, and others, are finding decent, living-wage jobs. But according to the Zillow survey, 28 percent of recent college grads are living with their parents — up from 19 percent in 2005. And no wonder, since even just getting a bachelor’s degree can leave graduates with student loan debt as high as $59,000.

Speaking of which, you have to give part of the credit for economic growth to an explosion of household debt — $13.5 trillion at the end of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s the highest on record, CNBC reports.

A big part of the mix is student loan debt, which is now the second-largest percentage of household debt behind mortgage debt. Student loan debt stood at 1.38 trillion, up $68 billion from 2016.

That edges out auto loan debt at $1.22 trillion.

And while we’re on the subject, subprime car loans are now being packaged into securities and sold to investors. Sound familiar?

And the beat goes on. On March 9, a New York Times headline read: “The Economy Is Looking Awfully Strong.” March 20: “Up, Up, Up Goes the Economy.”

The Washington Post reported: “The U.S. economy turned in a surprisingly strong performance last year, new data show …”

“Unemployment and inflation fell last year while wages and salaries rose at their quickest pace in five years, according to a series of recent government reports. The reports suggest that troubles in housing and manufacturing, though painful for many people, have not caused the widespread economic damage that many experts had feared.”

Oh, hold on. That story was published on February 1, 2007.


Cup of noodles image credit: Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia Commons)