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2017 Is Going To Be The Worst Retail Apocalypse In U.S. History – More Than 300 Retailers Have Already Filed For Bankruptcy

Not even during the worst parts of the last recession did things ever get this bad for the U.S. retail industry.  As you will see in this article, more than 300 retailers have already filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and it is being projected that a staggering 8,640 stores will close in America by the end of this calendar year.  That would shatter the old record by more than 20 percent.  Sadly, our ongoing retail apocalypse appears to only be in the early chapters.  One report recently estimated that up to 25 percent of all shopping malls in the country could shut down by 2022 due to the current woes of the retail industry.  And if the new financial crisis that is already hitting Europe starts spreading over here, the numbers that I just shared with you could ultimately turn out to be a whole lot worse.

I knew that a lot of retailers were filing for bankruptcy, but I had no idea that the grand total for this year was already in the hundreds.  According to CNN, the number of retail bankruptcies is now up 31 percent compared to the same time period last year…

Bankruptcies continue to pile up in the retail industry.

More than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, according to data from BankruptcyData.com. That’s up 31% from the same time last year. Most of those filings were for small companies — the proverbial Mom & Pop store with a single location. But there are also plenty of household names on the list.

Yes, the growth of online retailers such as Amazon is fueling some of this, but the Internet has been around for several decades now.

So why are retail store closings and retail bankruptcies surging so dramatically all of a sudden?

Just a few days ago, another major victim of the retail apocalypse made headlines all over the nation when it filed for bankruptcy.  At one time Gymboree was absolutely thriving, but now it is in a desperate fight to survive

Children’s clothing chain Gymboree has filed for bankruptcy protection, aiming to slash its debts and close hundreds of stores amid crushing pressure on retailers.

Gymboree said it plans to remain in business but will close 375 to 450 of its 1,281 stores in filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Gymboree employs more than 11,000 people, including 10,500 hourly workers.

And in recent weeks other major retailers that were once very prosperous have also been forced to close stores and lay off staff

This hemorrhaging of retail jobs comes on the heels of last week’s mass layoffs at Hudson Bay Company, where employees from Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor were among the 2,000 people laid off. The news of HBC layoffs came on the same day that Ascena, the parent company of brands like Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Dress Barn, told investors it will be closing up to 650 stores (although it did not specify which brands will be affected just yet). Only two weeks ago, affordable luxury brand Michael Kors announced it too would close 125 stores to combat brand overexposure and plummeting sales.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of 2007.  The stock market was still performing very well, but the real economy was starting to come apart at the seams.

And without a doubt, the real economy is really hurting right now.  According to Business Insider, Moody’s is warning that 22 more major retailers may be forced to declare bankruptcy in the very near future…

Twenty-two retailers in Moody’s portfolio are in serious financial trouble that could lead to bankruptcy, according to a Moody’s note published on Wednesday. That’s 16% of the 148 companies in the financial firm’s retail group — eclipsing the level of seriously distressed retail companies that Moody’s reported during the Great Recession.

You can find the full list right here.  If this many major retailers are “distressed” now, what are things going to look like once the financial markets start crashing?

As thousands of stores close down all across the United States, this is going to put an incredible amount of stress on shopping mall owners.  In order to meet their financial obligations, those mall owners need tenants, but now the number of potential tenants is shrinking rapidly.

I have talked about dead malls before, but apparently what we have seen so far is nothing compared to what is coming.  The following comes from CNN

Store closings and even dead malls are nothing new, but things might be about to get a whole lot worse.

Between 20% and 25% of American malls will close within five years, according to a new report out this week from Credit Suisse. That kind of plunge would be unprecedented in the nation’s history.

I can’t even imagine what this country is going to look like if a quarter of our shopping malls shut down within the next five years.  Already, there are some parts of the U.S. that look like a third world nation.

And what is this going to do to employment?  Today, the retail industry employs millions upon millions of Americans, and those jobs could start disappearing very rapidly

The retail sales associate is one of the most popular jobs in the country, with roughly 4.5 million Americans filling the occupation. In May, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that found that 7.5 million retail jobs might be replaced by technology. The World Economic Forum predicts 30 to 50 percent of retail jobs will be gone once struggling companies like Gymboree fully hop on the digital train. MarketWatch found that over the last year, the department store space bled 29,900 jobs, while general merchandising stores cut 15,700 positions. At this rate, one Florida columnist put it soberingly, “Half of all US retail jobs could vanish. Just as ATMs replaced many bank tellers, automated check-out stations are supplanting retail clerks.”

At this moment, the number of working age Americans that do not have a job is hovering near a record high.  So being able to at least get a job in the retail industry has been a real lifeline for many Americans, and now that lifeline may be in grave danger.

For those running our big corporations, losing these kinds of jobs is not a big deal.  In fact, many corporate executives would be quite happy to replace all of their U.S. employees with technology or with foreign workers.

But if the middle class is going to survive, we need an economy that produces good paying jobs.  Unfortunately, even poor paying retail jobs are starting to disappear now, and the future of the middle class is looking bleaker than it ever has before.

The Real Unemployment Number: 102 Million Working Age Americans Do Not Have A Job

Did you know that the number of working age Americans that do not have a job right now is far higher than it was during the worst moments of the last recession?  For example, in January 2009 92.6 million working age Americans did not have a job, but we just found out that in May the number of working age Americans without a job increased to just a shade under 102 million.  We’ll go over those numbers in more detail in a moment, but first I want to talk a bit about the difference between perception and reality.  According to the bureaucrats in the federal government, the “unemployment rate” in May was the lowest that we have seen in 16 years.  At just “4.3 percent”, we are essentially at “full employment”, and so according to them anyone that really wants a job should be able to find one pretty easily.

Of course that is a load of nonsense.  John Williams of shadowstats.com tracks what our economic numbers would look like if honest numbers were being used, and according to his calculations the unemployment rate is currently 22 percent.

So what accounts for the wide disparity between those numbers?

Well, the truth is that the official “unemployment rate” that the mainstream media endlessly hypes is so manipulated that it has essentially lost all meaning at this point.

In May, we were told that the U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs, but that is not even enough to keep up with population growth.

However, when you look deeper into the numbers some major red flags quickly emerge.  You won’t hear it on the news, but in May the U.S. economy actually lost 367,000 full-time jobs.  That is an absolutely nightmarish figure, and it confirms the fact that economic activity is starting to dramatically slow down.

But somehow the “unemployment rate” in May fell from “4.4 percent” to “4.3 percent”.

How in the world can they do that?

Well, for years the government has been taking large numbers of people from the basket known as “officially unemployed” and dumping them into another basket known as “not in the labor force”.  Since those that are “not in the labor force” do not count toward the official unemployment rate, they can make things look better than they actually are by moving people into that category.

In May, the government added a staggering 608,000 Americans into the “not in the labor force” category.  So now the number of working age Americans “not in the labor force” has reached a total of 94.98 million.  When you add that total to the number of Americans that are “officially” unemployed (6.86 million), you get a grand total of 101.84 million.

In other words, when you round up to the nearest million you get a grand total of 102 million Americans that do not have a job right now.

If you go back to January 2009, there were 81.02 million Americans that were “not in the labor force” and 11.61 million Americans that were considered to be “officially unemployed”.  And so that means that according to the federal government there were 92.63 million working age Americans that did not have a job at that point.

So if the number of working age Americans without a job has risen by 9.21 million since January 2009, are we really doing so much better than we were during the depths of the last recession?

Another way to look at this is by examining the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just before the last recession, about 63 percent of the working age population had a job, but then during the recession that number fell to between 58 and 59 percent for quite a while.  We have finally gotten back to the 60 percent mark, but we are still far, far below the level that we were at before the last recession struck.

And of course all of the above assumes that the numbers that the government is giving us accurately reflect reality, and that is highly questionable.

For example, according to one recent analysis the “business birth and death model” has accounted for 93 percent of all “new jobs” reported by the government since 2008…

As our friends at Morningside Hill calculate, a full 93% of the new jobs reported since 2008 – 6.3 million out of 6.7 million – and 40% of the jobs in 2016 alone were added through the business birth and death model – a highly controversial model which is not supported by the data. On the contrary, all data on establishment births and deaths point to an ongoing decrease in entrepreneurship.

In essence, government bureaucrats pull a number out of the air and add jobs to the report based on an estimate of how many new businesses they think are being created in America in a particular month.

Is it possible that there is a chance that they are being overly optimistic when they make this estimate?

Most people have no idea that the “official numbers” that we get from the government are highly speculative, and there is always a temptation to make things look better than they actually are.

There is no way in the world that we are anywhere near “full employment”.  I hear from people all over the country that say that it is exceedingly difficult to find good jobs where they live.  And according to a brand new report that was just released, the number of job cuts in May 2017 was 71 percent higher than it was in May 2016.

We also know that over the past ten years the average rate of economic growth in the United States exactly matches the average rate of economic growth that the U.S. experienced during the 1930s.

I don’t see how anyone can possibly claim that the U.S. economy is doing well.  Just prior to the last recession there were 26 million Americans on food stamps, and now we have 44 million.  We are on pace to absolutely shatter the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has risen by 23 percent over the past 12 months.

But once again, it is a battle of perception vs. reality.  Their televisions are endlessly feeding them the message that everything is just fine, and most Americans seem to be buying it, at least for now…

They Are Killing Small Business: The Number Of Self-Employed Americans Is Lower Than It Was In 1990

After eight long, bitter years under Obama, will things go better for entrepreneurs and small businesses now that Donald Trump is in the White House?  Once upon a time, America was the best place in the world for those that wanted to work for themselves.  Our free market capitalist system created an environment in which entrepreneurs and small businesses greatly thrived, but today they are being absolutely eviscerated by the control freak bureaucrats that dominate our political system.  Year after year, leftist politicians just keep piling on more rules, more regulations, more red tape and more taxes.  As a result, the number of self-employed Americans is now lower than it was in 1990

In April 1990, 8.7 million Americans were self-employed, but today only 8.4 million Americans are self-employed.

Of course our population has grown much, much larger since that time.  In 1990, there were 249 million people living in the United States, but today there are 321 million people living in this country.

What this means is that the percentage of the population that is self-employed is way down.

In fact, one study found that the percentage of Americans that are self-employed fell by more than 20 percent between 1991 and 2010.

And if you go back even farther, the numbers are even more depressing.  It may be hard to believe, but the percentage of “new entrepreneurs and business owners” declined by a staggering 53 percent between 1977 and 2010.

Sometimes I like to watch a television show called Shark Tank, and on that show they make it seem like entrepreneurship in America is thriving.

But the exact opposite is actually the case.  In a previous article, I discussed how the number of new businesses being created in the United States has been steadily falling over the years.  According to economist Tim Kane, the number of startup jobs per one thousand Americans has been declining for several consecutive presidential administrations

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

So why is this happening?

As I mentioned at the top of this article, self-employed Americans are being absolutely strangled by oppressive rules, regulations and taxes.

To illustrate this point, I would like to share with you some quotes from an open letter that was authored by a small business owner named Don Chernoff…

#1 I work for myself and have to pay my own medical expenses. Before the “affordable care act” I was paying about $200 per month for a high deductible policy. It was far from perfect but it got so much worse under the “Affordable” care act.

I now pay over $400 a month, my deductible went from $5,000 to over $6,000 and my out of pocket costs for care have skyrocketed.

#2 I have to spend dozens of hours and thousands of dollars for a tax accountant each spring to prepare my taxes because I cannot possibly understand how to do it myself, and I have a master’s degree in engineering.

#3 Many years ago when I quit a perfectly good job to start my own small business, I was shocked to learn that I had to pay both my share and what had been my employer’s share of Social Security.

#4 Between state, federal and local taxes you’ve probably paid 50% or more of your income in taxes, but that’s not enough for politicians.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have created a business you can sell, now you’ll get to enjoy paying another tax on the capital gain from the sale.

This is another reason why we need a conservative revolution in Washington.  We should demand that our members of Congress lower tax rates dramatically, completely eliminate the self-employment tax, greatly simplify the tax code and get rid of as many regulations on small business owners as possible.

In fact, if it was up to me I would abolish a number of federal agencies completely.

What we are doing right now is not working.  Small businesses have traditionally been one of the main engines of economic growth in this country, but thanks to the left they are unable to play that role at the moment.

It isn’t an accident that over the last ten years the U.S. economy has grown at exactly the same rate as it did during the 1930s.

If we want our economy to be great again, we need to go back and start doing the things that made it great in the first place.  If we continue to suffocate our economy, we will continue to get the same results.

And with each passing day, we get more signs that the economy is heading into another major downturn.  For instance, we just learned that Sears is closing 30 more stores on top of the 150 that had already been announced…

Sears Holdings, which wasn’t shy when it announced at the start of the year that it is closing 150 underperforming stores, has quietly added at least 30 more to the list.

Another 12 Sears stores and 18 Kmarts are among the locations that are closing, from Carson, Calif., to Hialeah, Fla., with most scheduled to shut their doors in July, based on calls to the stores, malls and confirmation in local media.

At the start of the year, the retailer pinpointed the 150 stores it said it would close. But it declined this week to provide a list of additional locations that are slated to shut since then, saying that it update store counts each quarter.

In addition, we just learned that new home sales in April were 11.4 percent lower than they were in March

If you’re surprised by the collapse in new home sales in April, then you’re not paying attention.

The 11.4% MoM plunge in new home sales in April was 5 standard deviations below expectations and the biggest since March 2015.

Yes, the stock market is holding up for the moment, but for most Americans the “real economy” just continues to deteriorate.  Just because we are at the end of a giant financial bubble does not mean that everything is going to be okay.

The numbers that I brought up in this article are just another example of our long-term economic decline.  In a healthy economy, entrepreneurs and small businesses would be thriving.  But instead, they are being systematically strangled out of existence by a political system that is wildly out of control.

11 Quotes From Trump’s Speech To Congress That Show That The U.S. Economy Is In A State Of Collapse

Donald Trump's Speech To A Joint Session Of Congress - Public DomainAfter Tuesday night, nobody should have any more doubt that the U.S. economy has been in the process of collapsing.  Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress is being hailed as his best speech ever.  Even CNN’s Van Jones praised Trump, which shocked many observers.  Jones said that when Trump honored the widow of slain Navy Seal Ryan Owens that it “was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics”, and Jones believes that Trump “became President of the United States in that moment”.  But Trump’s speech is not just being praised for that one moment.  He detailed many of the most important problems that our nation is facing, and he explained his prescription for addressing those problems.

Hopefully Trump’s words helped people to understand that our problems did not get fixed just because he got elected.  It is going to take extraordinary action to fix those problems, because our problems run very deep.  In particular, Trump made an exceedingly strong case that the U.S. economy has been badly deteriorating for a very long period of time.  The following are 11 quotes from Trump’s speech to Congress that show that the U.S. economy is in a state of collapse…

#1 “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force”

#2 “Over 43 million people are now living in poverty”

#3 “Over 43 million Americans are on food stamps”

#4 “More than one in five people in their prime working years are not working”

#5 “We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years”

#6 “In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other Presidents combined”

#7 “We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved”

#8 “We’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001”

#9 “Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly 800 billion dollars”

#10 “Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.”

#11  “We’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled”

All of these quotes come from the transcript of the speech that was posted on the official White House website.

So many of the economic themes that Trump touched on are things that I have been writing about recently.  For example, I recently published an article entitled “11 Deeply Alarming Facts About America’s Crumbling Infrastructure” in which I discussed the horrific state of our roads, bridges, ports, dams, water systems and airports.  I greatly applaud Trump for wanting to do something about this growing national crisis, but I just don’t know where the money is going to come from.

Just over a week ago I also wrote a major article about Obamacare.  We have zero hope of turning our economy in a positive direction until we do something to fix our dramatically failing healthcare system, but at the moment Republicans in Congress seem extremely hesitant to take action.  Instead, many Republican leaders are now talking about trying to “fix Obamacare“, and that simply is not going to work.

You can’t “fix” a steaming pile of garbage.

All of the other facts that Trump listed about the economy were right on point too.  I have been screaming for seven years about our nightmarish trade deficit and the fact that tens of thousands of businesses and millions of good paying jobs were leaving the country.  It is refreshing to finally have a president that understands how badly America has been hurt by imbalanced trade agreements, and my hope is that he will start to take constructive action in this regard.

So much damage to the economy has already been done, and there are all kinds of indications that we are about to officially slide into yet another recession.  Yesterday we learned that the number of “distressed retailers” in this country is the highest that it has been since the last recession, and in recent weeks major retailers across the nation have announced the closing of hundreds of stores.  Lending standards are tightening, bankruptcies are rising, and employment growth at companies listed on the S&P 500 has gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

It is being projected that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 will be barely above zero, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we actually had a negative reading.

If we indeed are heading into a new recession, Trump and his supporters need it to happen as soon as possible so that they can blame it on Obama.  If a recession begins a year from now, everyone will blame it on Trump even if it is not his fault.  But if a recession begins now, Trump and his supporters can pin responsibility for it on Obama and then take credit if and when a recovery occurs.

Trump’s speech on Tuesday night was very optimistic, and he seemed quite confident that every issue that we are facing as a nation can be fixed

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope.

I hope that Trump is right, but I also know that the federal government is already 20 trillion dollars in debt, U.S. consumers are already more than 12 trillion dollars in debt, and corporate debt has approximately doubled since the last financial crisis.

You can’t squeeze blood out of an apple, and you can’t get out of a debt bubble by going into a lot more debt.

I understand that there are so many people out there right now that are deeply optimistic about the future, but the truth is that we have no hope of a positive future unless we fundamentally change our ways as a nation.  I wish that someone could show me evidence that this is happening, because I would be very glad to see it.  As it stands, we continue to steamroll toward the kind of apocalyptic future for this country that I have been warning about for a very long time.

It will take a lot more than words to fix America, and I think that Donald Trump understands this.

Hopefully many of his followers will start to get the message as well.

Here Come The Robots – And They Are Going To Take Almost All Of Our Jobs

Robot Human Hand - Public DomainWhat is going to happen to society when robots are able to do just about everything better, faster and cheaper than human workers can?  We live at a time when technology is increasing at an exponential pace.  Incredible advancements in robotics, computer science and artificial intelligence are certainly making our lives more comfortable, but they are also bringing fundamental changes to the workplace.  For employers, there are a lot of advantages to replacing human workers with robots.  Robots don’t surf around on Facebook when they are supposed to be working. Robots don’t need Obamacare, lunch breaks or vacation days. Robots never steal from the company and they never complain.  Up until fairly recently, human workers could generally perform many tasks more cheaply than robots could, but now that is rapidly changing.

For example, a coffee shop has just opened up in San Francisco that is manned by a robot instead of a human…

Tired of your barista misspelling your name on your morning cup of joe? Perhaps a robot could do better. On Monday, Cafe X opened its very first robotic cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds, the way the roaster intended,” Cafe X thinks that anything a human can do, its machines can do better.

Specifically, one very special machine. Nicknamed Gordon, after a Cafe X employee, this robot mans, or robots, two standard professional coffee machines in order to serve up espressos and lattes. In the San Francisco location, customers can grab a cup of coffee with beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, or Peet’s. While the coffee itself may not make Cafe X stand out from the competition, the startup hopes that the robot’s efficiency will.

If that coffee shop demonstrates that it can be much more profitable than a coffee shop with human employees, it is just a matter of time before human baristas start to be phased out all over the nation.

A similar thing is happening in many supermarkets.  Personally, I hate the “self-checkout lines”, but you are starting to see them everywhere these days.

And according to the Sun, Amazon is playing around with a concept that would employ hardly any human workers at all…

In the case of Amazon’s automated retail prototype, a half-dozen workers could staff an average location. A manager’s duties would include signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service. Another worker would restock shelves, and still another two would be stationed at “drive-thru” windows for customers picking up their groceries, fast-food style.

The last pair would work upstairs, helping the robots bag groceries to be sent down to customers on “dumbwaiter”-like conveyors, a source said.

With the bare-bones payroll, the boost to profits could be huge. Indeed, the prototype being discussed calls for operating profit margins north of 20 percent. That compares with an industry average of just 1.7 percent, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

During the recent presidential campaign, much was made of the fact that we have shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas over the past several decades.

We can certainly try to make some laws that would keep American workers from losing jobs to foreign workers, but pretty soon workers all over the world are going to be losing millions of jobs to technology, and it is going to be just about impossible to make laws to prevent that from happening.

Just check out what is happening in China.  Many big firms had moved manufacturing to China because labor was much cheaper over there, but now a lot of those cheap Chinese workers are being replaced by robots

Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, in fact, has already begun automating certain work that was previously done by hand. A Chinese government official told a Hong Kong newspaper in May that Foxconn had replaced 60,000 workers with robots at one factory there. And the company is receiving incentives north of Shanghai in the eastern-central Jiangsu Province to accelerate investments in robotics to replace human labor, according to Chinese state media organization Xinhua.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  According to one study, 49 percent of all activities currently performed by human workers could already “be turned over to some sort of machine or robot”…

About 49% of worker activities can be turned over to some sort of machine or robot, increasingly helped along by artificial-intelligence software, according to consultancy McKinsey.

About 58% of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of robotics, while 16% say they plan to hire more people because of robotics, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

And Carl Frey of Oxford University has determined that some professions have more than a 90 percent chance of becoming automated in the coming years

The revelations that dependable office jobs such as insurance workers and real estate agents have a more than 97% chance of becoming computerised could now spark fears among the middle class workforce.

‘While low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.’ Frey told The Times.

Other jobs that feature high on the ‘risk list’ are credit analysts who have a 97% chance of losing their jobs to robots, postal service workers at 95% and lab technicians who have an 89% chance of seeing their role become automated.

So what in the world are we going to do with billions of human workers around the globe that are no longer needed when technology takes virtually all of our jobs?

Some have suggested that the idea of “work” will become a thing of the past, and that society will evolve into a socialist utopia where everything we need is provided for by the government.  In fact, the concept of a “universal basic income” is already being promoted in Europe and elsewhere.

But others see a dystopian future where the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” grows greater than ever before.  Humanity has always been plagued by poverty and greed, and everyone agrees that the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us has been growing very rapidly in recent years.

Where there is nearly universal agreement is on the fact that big changes are coming.  Workers are going to be displaced by technology at an accelerating rate in the years ahead, and this will present a tremendous challenge for us all.

Employment Boom: 10 Companies That Have Promised To Add Jobs In The United States Since Trump Was Elected

Hiring - Public DomainOne of the primary things that Trump’s presidency will be judged upon is his ability to encourage the creation of good paying jobs for American workers, and so far the results have been quite promising.  Since Trump’s surprise election victory in November, a whole bunch of companies have either promised to bring jobs back into the country or have pledged to create new ones.  Ultimately time will tell if those jobs actually materialize, but for the moment there is a tremendous amount of optimism in the air.  In fact, I don’t know if we have ever seen anything quite like this at the beginning of a new presidency.  The following are 10 companies that have promised to add jobs in the United States since the election of Donald Trump…

#1 Kroger says that it intends to fill 10,000 permanent positions in the United States this year.

#2 IBM has announced that it will be hiring an additional 25,000 workers in the United States over the next four years.

#3 Foxconn is considering setting up a 7 billion dollar plant in the United States that would create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs.

#4 Amazon.com has pledged to add 100,000 full-time jobs in the United States by mid-2018.

#5 Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to add approximately 10,000 retail jobs in the United States in 2017.

#6 Sprint has announced that 5,000 jobs will be brought back to the United States instead of going overseas.

#7 After meeting with Trump, the CEO of SoftBank stated his intention to create 50,000 new jobs in the United States.

#8 After a phone call from Trump, industrial manufacturing giant Carrier promised to keep hundreds of jobs in the United States instead of moving them out of the country.

#9 Hyundai has promised to spend 3.1 billion dollars supporting their current factories in Georgia and Alabama, and they have said that they are now considering adding an additional factory in the United States as well.

#10 GM has pledged to invest a billion dollars in U.S. factories and to add or keep 7,000 jobs in the United States.

Unlike most politicians, so far Donald Trump seems determined to actually keep many of the promises that he made during the campaign.  And on Monday he kept a very important promise by pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  If you are not familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the following is a pretty good summary  from USA Today

The TPP is a comprehensive trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, not including China, that was signed last year by President Obama after seven years of negotiation. But the Senate had not yet ratified it. The 30-chapter pact, which also needed to be ratified by other countries before Trump’s order Monday, primarily aims to boost exports, remove tariffs and non-tariff  barriers, open access to more markets and usher in transparency in trade rules.

The 12 nations that were to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership collectively account for approximately 40 percent of global GDP.  So it was going to be a very big deal, and it is something that Barack Obama had been working on for many years.

But with one stroke of a pen it is over, and as I will explain below that is a very good thing.

Trump is also promising to keep his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA

On Nafta, Trump said Sunday that he’ll meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to begin discussing the deal, which he has routinely blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs although there was little change to employment in the U.S. in several years after it went into effect. Trump signaled that he’s willing to work with the U.S.’s closest neighbors.

“We’re going to start renegotiating on Nafta, on immigration, and on security at the border,” Trump said at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for top White House staff. “I think we’re going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody involved. It’s really very important.”

Nobody is suggesting that we shouldn’t trade with the rest of the world, but what Donald Trump understands that so many other politicians do not is that many of these “free trade deals” have been extremely destructive to the U.S. economy.

For years, we have been buying far, far more from the rest of the world than they have been buying from us.  As a result of our massive trade deficits, there has been a continual flow of cash, jobs and businesses leaving the country.

Over the past several decades, formerly great manufacturing cities such as Detroit have been reduced to urban hellholes.  Meanwhile, China has become exceedingly wealthy and gleaming new factories have sprouted like mushrooms in their major cities.

This didn’t happen by accident.

Bad decisions lead to bad results.  And if we had kept on doing the same things, we would have continued to systematically impoverish our nation.

For more than seven years, I have been hammering home the message that our trade policies have been absolutely killing us.  So I am quite thankful that we finally have a president that understands these things.

Of course there is much more to fixing our economy than just addressing our trade deals.  As I discussed yesterday, our rapidly growing debt is becoming a major crisis, and that is going to present quite a challenge for Trump.

But for the moment, we should definitely celebrate the fact that Trump has gotten us out of the TPP and that he plans to renegotiate NAFTA.

Donald Trump understands business, and it is going to be fascinating to watch how a businessman handles the position of the presidency.  It has only been a few days, but already some of his former critics seem to be coming around a little bit.  For instance, just consider what Mark Cuban is saying

The Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur is “playing it by ear” when it comes to the effect President Donald Trump’s policies will have on the stock market. But he thinks there’s possible upside.

“I think the discussed economic programs are potentially a big plus for public companies and the overall economy,” Mr. Cuban said in an e-mail Monday morning.

The potential policies Mr. Cuban is optimistic about: corporate tax cuts; getting rid of the “friction” for small businesses; and reducing and simplifying administrative activities.

Considering our current trajectory and the immense amount of long-term damage that was done during the Obama years, it is hard to be optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy.

However, I am certainly willing to give Donald Trump a chance to show what he can do.

At least he is doing things differently than his predecessors did, and that is to be greatly applauded because the road that we were on clearly would have ended in economic oblivion.

We may very well end up there anyway, but there is certainly nothing wrong with being hopeful that Trump can somehow turn things around.

The Percentage Of Working Age Men That Do Not Have A Job Is Similar To The Great Depression

Great DepressionWhy are so many men in their prime working years unemployed?  The Obama administration would have us believe that unemployment is low in this country, but that is not true at all.  In fact, one author quoted by NPR says that “it’s kind of worse than it was in the depression in 1940”.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but more men from ages 25 to 54 are “inactive” right now than was the case during the last recession.  We have millions upon millions of strong young men just sitting around doing nothing.  They aren’t employed and they aren’t considered to be looking for employment either, and so they don’t show up in the official unemployment numbers.  But they don’t have jobs, and nothing the Obama administration does can eliminate that fact.

According to NPR, “nearly 100 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked” in the 1960s.

In those days, just about any dependable, hard working American man could get hired almost immediately.  The economy was growing and the demand for labor was seemingly insatiable.

But today, one out of every six men in their prime working years does not have a job

In a recent report, President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers said 83 percent of men in the prime working ages of 25-54 who were not in the labor force had not worked in the previous year. So, essentially, 10 million men are missing from the workforce.

One in six prime-age guys has no job; it’s kind of worse than it was in the depression in 1940,” says Nicholas Eberstadt, an economic and demographic researcher at American Enterprise Institute who wrote the book Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis. He says these men aren’t even counted among the jobless, because they aren’t seeking work.

So why is this happening?

If you look at the inactivity rate for men in the 25 to 54 age bracket, it was sitting at just 8.1 percent in January 2000.

In January 2008, right at the beginning of the last recession, it was sitting at 9.2 percent, and by the end of the recession it had risen to 10.3 percent.

Today, it is sitting at 11.5 percent.

Remember, these are men that don’t even count toward the official unemployment rate.  They are not working, but they are not considered to be “looking for work” either.

So what are these men doing?

You may be tempted to think that many of them have decided to stay home and raise the kids as their wives go off to work.  But according to NPR, that is not what is happening

What the missing men aren’t doing in large numbers is staying home to take care of family. Forty percent of nonworking women are primary caregivers; that’s true of only 5 percent of men out of the workforce.

We do have the largest prison population in the entire world by far, and without a doubt that does play a role in these numbers.  However, a far bigger factor is the millions of men that have become content being dependents of the federal government.  More than 100 million Americans receive money from the government each month, and a lot of people (both men and women) have found that it is just easier to sit back and collect government checks than it is to go out and try to work hard for a living.

But of course the number one factor is the lack of jobs available.  I personally know people that have been looking for work in their fields for years and have not been able to get hired.  We have a major employment crisis in this nation, and it is only going to get worse in the years ahead as we continue to lose jobs to technology and millions more good jobs get shipped overseas.

And a lot of the “jobs” that have been created during the Obama administration have been very low quality jobs.  Since December 2014, we have gained about half a million jobs for waiters and bartenders, but meanwhile we have actually lost good paying manufacturing jobs.  If we continue down this road, the middle class will continue to shrink.

In addition to everything that I have just shared, here are some other facts that are pertinent to this discussion…

-Right at this moment, there are approximately 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job.

-Nearly one out of every five young adults are currently living with their parents.

-The Wall Street Journal recently declared that this is the weakest “economic recovery” since 1949.

-Barack Obama is on track to be the only president in U.S. history to never have a single year when the U.S. economy grew by at least 3 percent.

The economy is far weaker than you are being told, the employment crisis is far worse than you are being told, and as I mentioned yesterday, the stage is clearly set for a new financial crisis of epic proportions.

And if we are going to see markets crash, this time of the year is a good time for it.  In fact, CNBC says that history tells us that this is the “worst period of the year for stocks”…

The worst period of the year for stocks has just begun — at least based on market history.

Over the entire 120-year history of the Dow Jones industrial average, Sept. 6 to Oct. 29 tends to be the worst period for the market. And more specifically, the last few weeks of September have been an especially bad time.

Someday when people look back at this time in history, they will not be surprised by how horrific the coming collapse will be.  The truth is that anyone with a lick of common sense can see that the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world is going to end badly.

No, what is going to amaze them is that the system was able to hold together as long as it did.  It truly is incredible that the debt-based, fiat currency Ponzi scheme that the central banks of the world have been desperately trying to prop up has been able to keep chugging along all the way to the middle of 2016.

How much longer can they keep the magic going?

I don’t know, but history tells us that time is not on their side…

Why The Jobs Report Is Not Nearly As Strong As You Are Being Told

Jobs Unemployment Main Street - Public DomainHappy days are here again? On Friday, the mainstream media was buzzing with the news that the U.S. economy had added 255,000 jobs during the month of July. But as you will see below, the U.S. economy did not add 255,000 jobs during the month of July. In fact, without an extremely generous “seasonal adjustment”, the number of jobs added during the month of July would not have even kept up with population growth. But the pretend number sounds so much better than the real number, and so the pretend number is what is being promoted for public consumption.

Why doesn’t the government ever just tell us the plain facts? Unfortunately, we live at a time when “spin” is everything, and just about everyone in the mainstream media seemed quite pleased with the “good jobs report” on Friday. However, as Zero Hedge has pointed out, the truth is that the “unadjusted” numbers tell a very different story…

As Mitsubishi UFJ strategist John Herrmann wrote in a note shortly after the report, the “jobs headline overstates” strength of payrolls. He adds that the unadjusted data show a “middling report” that’s “nowhere as strong as the headline” and adds that private payrolls unadjusted +85k in July vs seasonally adjusted +217k.

In Herrmann’s view, the government applied a “very benign seasonal adjustment factor upon private payrolls to transform a soft private payroll gain into a strong gain.”

He did not provide a reason why the government would do that.

Every month, the U.S. economy must create at least 150,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth. According to the unadjusted numbers, we did not hit that threshold, and so the employment situation in this country actually got worse last month.

In America today, there are 7.8 million Americans that are considered to be officially unemployed, and another 94.3 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”.

When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

Rather than focusing on the headline “unemployment” figure, we get a much fairer look at the employment crisis in the United States when we examine the employment-population ratio. The following chart comes directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it shows that the percentage of Americans that are employed has never even come close to getting back to where it was just prior to the last recession…

Employment-Population Ratio 2016

Over the past couple of years we have seen a slight bump in this number, and that is good, but normally after a recession ends the employment-population ratio goes back to at least as high as it was before.  Unfortunately, this has not happened after the last two recessions.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The ratio always drops during recessions, but before 2001, it always climbed to higher highs during the recoveries. The 2001 recession and subsequent recovery changed this. For the first time, the ratio never fully recovered, never got even close to fully recovering. That was a new phenomenon: employment growth could no longer keep up with population growth.

When the Great Recession hit, the ratio plunged from its lower starting point at the fastest pace on record (going back to 1948). The Fed’s efforts were all focused exclusively on bailing out bondholders, re-inflating the stock market, re-inflating the housing market, and generally creating what had become the official Fed policy at the time, the Wealth Effect (here’s Bernanke himself explaining it). This has re-inflated asset prices – many of them way beyond their prior bubble peaks.

But the Fed’s astounding focus on capital accelerated the already changing dynamics of the economy, at the expense of labor.

Even the Wall Street Journal admits that we are in the weakest “economic recovery” since 1949, and now there are lots of signs that we have entered a brand new economic downturn.  Here are just a few examples from Chad Shoop

  • Ford, GM and Chrysler — three of the U.S.’ largest auto companies — reported sales for July that missed estimates: down 3%, 1.9% and up 0.3%, respectively.
  • Delta Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world, said revenue fell 7% in July as part of its monthly performance update.
  • Macy’s, the biggest department store company, reported a decline in sales for July, leading to more aggressive markdowns and an industry-wide sell-off.

And lots of ominous signs continue to pop up on Wall Street as well.  For one thing, the Libor rate has surged to the highest level since the last financial crisis.  If you are not familiar with Libor, here is a pretty good explanation of it from Business Insider

The Libor, or London Interbank Offered Rate, measures the interest rate at which banks lend to each other at different durations, and its sharp jump was a harbinger of the financial crisis.

And according to that same article, the Libor rate is now the highest that we have seen since early 2009

In the past month, the Libor rate has spiked to rates not seen since the first quarter of 2009, the heart of the banking meltdown.

Not to mention, the spread between the Libor and the Overnight Index Swap rate, which tracks the lending rate from the Federal Reserve, has widened, another potentially worrying sign.

But of course I have been quoting facts and figures like this for months, and yet U.S. financial markets continue to hold it together.

There are literally dozens of parallels between the global financial crisis of 2008 and what is happening in 2016, but Wall Street continues to defy the laws of economics.

Of course it won’t last forever, but it certainly has been a sight to behold.

And I am certainly not alone in my analysis.  As I noted the other day, DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach is entirely convinced that stocks “should be down massively”…

“The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, ‘Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.’ That’s exactly how I feel – sell everything. Nothing here looks good,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.”

For the moment, investors continue to pay extremely irrational prices for stocks, and the mainstream media is just giddy about the state of the economy.

So let us enjoy this very strange period of stability for however much longer it lasts, but let us also protect ourselves from the horrible crash that will inevitably follow.

The U.S. Has Lost 195,000 Good Paying Energy Industry Jobs

Layoffs - Public DomainNot all jobs are created equal.  There is a world of difference between a $100,000 a year energy industry job and a $10 an hour job running a cash register at Wal-Mart.  You can comfortably support a middle class family on $100,000 a year, but there is no way in the world that you can run a middle class household on a part-time job that pays just $10 an hour.  The quality of our jobs matters, and if current long-term trends continue unabated, eventually we are not going to have much of a middle class left.  At this point the middle class has already become a minority in America, and according to the Social Security Administration 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year right now.  We have a desperate need for more higher paying jobs, and that is why what is happening in the energy industry is so deeply alarming.

Just today we got some more disturbing news.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the U.S. has lost 195,000 good paying energy jobs since the middle of 2014…

Cheap oil has fueled a massive wave of job cuts that may not be over yet.

Since oil prices began to fall in mid-2014, cheap crude has been blamed for 195,000 job cuts in the U.S., according to a report published on Thursday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

It’s an enormous toll that is especially painful because these tend to be well-paying jobs. The average pay in the oil and gas industry is 84% higher than the national average, according to Goldman Sachs.

Those are good paying jobs that are not easy to replace, and unfortunately the jobs losses appear to be accelerating.  In their new report, Challenger, Gray & Christmas went on to say that 95,000 of those job cuts have come in 2016, and 17,725 of them were in July alone.

We also got some other bad news for the U.S. economy on Thursday.

Factory orders are down again, and at this point U.S. factory orders have now been down on a year over year basis for 20 months in a row.  That is the longest streak in all of U.S. history.

Needless to say, we have never seen such a thing happen outside of a recession.

In addition, it is being reported that U.S. banks have been tightening lending standards for four quarters in a row.

Once again, this is something that has never happened outside of a recession.

On top of all that, tax receipts continue to plummet.  This is a very bad sign for the economy, because falling tax receipts are usually a sign that we are headed into a recession.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

July “Withheld” receipts – those tax and withholding payments that come straight from wage earner pay stubs – are down 1.0% year over year. 

This data series can be choppy, and looking at the three month trailing average yields a 3.1%.  That’s a touch slower than the 2016 YTD comp of 3.3%, and tells us to not expect too much from Friday’s number.

Also worth noting: YTD non-withheld tax receipts (such as those that come from “Gig economy” workers) are down 6.5%, and July’s comp is 15% lower than a year ago.

Last, corporate tax receipts are down 11% YTD, and if the current pace of these payments holds it will be the first negative comp since 2011. Bottom line: if the tax man isn’t as busy, can the U.S. economy really be expanding?

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

And let’s review what else we have learned over the past couple of weeks…

-U.S. GDP growth came in at an extremely disappointing 1.2 percent for the second quarter of 2016, and the first quarter was revised down to 0.8 percent.

-The rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to the lowest level ever.

-The Wall Street Journal says that this is the weakest “economic recovery” since 1949.

-Barack Obama is on track to be the only president in U.S. history to never have a single year of 3 percent GDP growth.

Meanwhile, things continue to get worse around the rest of the planet as well.  For example, the economic depression in Brazil continues to deepen and it is being reported that the Brazilian economy has now been shrinking for five quarters in a row

Brazil’s economy, the world’s ninth largest, contracted by 0.3 percent in the first quarter, marking the fifth straight quarter it shrank. Last year, Brazil’s gross domestic product fell to its lowest level since 2009.

Inflation has also shot higher recently, rising 9 percent in 2015, from 6.3 percent in 2014, according to data from the World Bank. Energy as a percentage of exports, meanwhile, fell to 7 percent in 2015, from 9 percent in the previous year.

And of course Brazil is hosting the Olympics this summer, and that is turning out to be a major debacle.  Many of the international athletes will actually be rowing, sailing and swimming in open waters that are highly contaminated by raw sewage, and Brazilian police have been welcoming tourists to Rio with a big sign that says “Welcome To Hell“.  And let us not forget that right next door in Venezuela the economic collapse has gotten so bad that people are killing and eating zoo animals.

As the global economy continues to deteriorate, what should we do?

Legendary investor Bill Gross shared some of his thoughts on the matter in his latest Investment Outlook

“Negative returns and principal losses in many asset categories are increasingly possible unless nominal growth rates reach acceptable levels,” Gross said in his latest Investment Outlook note published Wednesday.

“I don’t like bonds; I don’t like most stocks; I don’t like private equity. Real assets such as land, gold, and tangible plant and equipment at a discount are favored asset categories.”

I tend to agree with Gross.  Bonds are in a tremendous bubble right now, and the stock market bubble has grown to ridiculous proportions.  In the end, the only wealth that you are going to be able to fully rely on is wealth that you can physically have in your possession.

As you have seen in this article, signs of economic decline are all around us.

And yet, many people out there are still convinced that good times are right around the corner.

What is it going to take to convince them that they are wrong?

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