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Global Trade Is Collapsing As The Worldwide Economic Recession Deepens

Dominoes Falling - Public DomainWhen the global economy is doing well, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes up, and when the global economy is in recession, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes down.  It is just basic economics.  Governments around the world have become very adept at manipulating other measures of economic activity such as GDP, but the trade numbers are more difficult to fudge.  Today, China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the entire planet, and we have just learned that Chinese exports and Chinese imports are both collapsing right now.  But this is just part of a larger trend.  As I discussed the other day, British banking giant HSBC has reported that total global trade is down 8.4 percent so far in 2015, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent.  The only other times global trade has plummeted this much has been during other global recessions, and it appears that this new downturn is only just beginning.

For many years, China has been leading the revolution in global trade.  But now we are witnessing something that is almost unprecedented.  Chinese exports are falling, and Chinese imports are absolutely imploding

Growth of exports from China has been dropping relentlessly, for years. Now this “growth” has actually turned negative. In September, exports were down 3.7% from a year earlier, the “inevitable fallout from China’s unsustainable and poorly executed credit splurge,” as Thomson Reuters’ Alpha Now puts it. Most of these exports are manufactured goods that are shipped by container to the rest of the world.

And imports into China – a mix of bulk and containerized freight – have been plunging: down 20.4% in September from a year earlier, after at a 13.8% drop in August.

This week it was announced that Chinese GDP growth had fallen to the lowest level since the last recession, and that makes sense.  Global economic activity is really slowing down, and this is deeply affecting China.

So what about the United States?

Well, based on the amount of stuff that is being shipped around in our country it appears that our economy is really slowing down too.  The following comes from Wolf Richter, and I shared some of it in a previous article, but I think that it bears repeating…

September is in the early phase of the make-or-break holiday shipping season. Shipments usually increase from August to September. They did this year too. The number of shipments in September inched up 1.7% from August, according to the Cass Freight Index.

But the index was down 1.5% from an already lousy September last year, when shipments had fallen from the prior month, instead of rising. And so, in terms of the number of shipments, it was the worst September since 2010.

It has been crummy all year: With the exception of January and February, the shipping volume has been lower year-over-year every month!

The index is broad. It tracks data from shippers, no matter what carrier they choose, whether truck, rail, or air, and includes carriers like FedEx and UPS.

What major retailers such as Wal-Mart are reporting also confirms that we are in a major economic slowdown.  Wal-Mart recently announced that its earnings would fall by as much as 12 percent during the next fiscal year, and that caused Wal-Mart stock to drop by the most in 27 years.

And of course this is going to have a huge ripple effect.  There are thousands of other companies that do business with Wal-Mart, and Reuters is reporting that they are starting to get squeezed…

Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart Stores. Now they are bracing for the pressure to ratchet up even more after a shock earnings warning from the retailer last week.

The discount store behemoth has always had a reputation for demanding lower prices from vendors but Reuters has learned from interviews with suppliers and consultants, as well as reviewing some contracts, that even by its standards Wal-Mart has been turning up the heat on them this year.

“The ground is shaking here,” said Cameron Smith, head of Cameron Smith & Associates, a major recruiting firm for suppliers located close to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Suppliers are going to have to help Wal-Mart get back on track.”

Similar things are going on at some of the other biggest companies in America as well.

For instance, things have gotten so bad for McDonald’s that one franchise owner recently stated that the restaurant chain is “facing its final days”

“McDonald’s announced in April that it would be closing 700 ‘underperforming’ locations, but because of the company’s sheer size — it has 14,300 locations in the United States alone — this was not necessarily a reduction in the size of the company, especially because it continues to open locations around the world. It still has more than double the locations of Burger King, its closest competitor.”

However, for the franchisees, the picture looks much worse than simply 700 stores closing down.

“We are in the throes of a deep depression, and nothing is changing,” a franchise owner wrote in response to a financial survey by Nomura Group. “Probably 30% of operators are insolvent.” One owner went as far as to speculate that McDonald’s is literally “facing its final days.”

Why would things be so bad at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s if the economy was “recovering”?

Come on now – let’s use some common sense here.

All of the numbers are screaming at us that we have entered a major economic downturn and that it is accelerating.

CNBC is reporting that the number of job openings in the U.S. is falling and that the number of layoffs is rising

Job openings fell 5.3 percent in August, while a 2.6 percent rise in layoffs and discharges offset a 0.3 percent gain in hires. Finally, the amount of quits — or what Convergex calls its “take this job and shove it” indicator because it shows the percentage of workers who left positions voluntarily — fell to 56.6 percent from 57.1 percent, indicating less confidence in mobility.

And as I discussed the other day, Challenger Gray is reporting that we are seeing layoffs at major firms at a level that we have not witnessed since 2009.

We already have 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  As this emerging worldwide recession deepens, a lot more Americans are going to lose their jobs.  That is going to cause the poverty and suffering in this country to spike even more, if you can imagine that.

Just consider what authorities discovered on the streets of Philadelphia just this week

Support is flooding in for a homeless Philadelphia family whose two-year-old son was found wandering alone in a park in the middle of the night.

Angelique Roland, 27, and Michael Jones, 24, were sleeping with their children behind cardboard boxes underneath the Fairmount Park Welcome Center in Love Park when the toddler slipped away.

The boy was found just before midnight and handed over to a nearby Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority police officer, who took him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

He was wearing a green, long sleeve shirt, black running pants and had a diaper on, but did not have shoes or socks.

Could you imagine sleeping on the streets and not even being able to provide your two-year-old child with shoes and socks?

These numbers that I write about every day are not a game.  They affect all of us on a very personal level.

Just like in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans that are living a very comfortable middle class lifestyle today will soon lose their jobs and will end up out in the streets.

In fact, there will be people that will read this article that this will happen to.

So no, none of us should be excited that the global economy is collapsing.  There is already so much pain all around us, and what is to come is beyond what most of us would even dare to imagine.

Worldwide Unemployment Crisis: There Are 93 Million Unemployed Workers In G20 Nations

Earth At NightDid you know that the total number of unemployed workers in G20 counties is now up to 93 million and that it is increasing with each passing day?  You see, the truth is that the United States is not the only one dealing with a systemic unemployment crisis.  This is literally happening all over the planet.  So what is causing this crisis?  Is there any hope that it will be turned around?  Well, unfortunately there are several long-term trends that have been developing for decades that have played a major role in bringing us to this point.  First of all, the giant corporations that now totally dominate the global economy have figured out that they can make a lot more money by replacing expensive workers that live in major industrialized nations with workers that live in nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  So it isn’t really a huge mystery why there is such a huge problem with unemployment in the western world.  If you were running a giant corporation, why would you want to hire workers that will cost you 10 to 20 times as much as other workers?  A worker is a worker, and over the past decade we have seen a massive movement of jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.  In addition, large corporations are also trying to completely eliminate as many jobs as they can by using technology.  If a corporation can get a computer or a machine or a robot to do a task more cheaply than a human worker can do it, then why would that corporation want to continue to rely on human labor?  And of course we have seen an overall weakening of the economies of the western world in recent years as well.  This has been particularly true in the United States.  As these long-term trends intensify, the worldwide unemployment crisis is going to get even worse.

In fact, the director general of the International Labor Organization is fully convinced that unemployment is going to continue to rise in G20 nations.  Just check out what he told CNBC on Friday…

Unemployment will likely soar further in the group of 20 major economic powers without immediate action, Guy Ryder, the director general of the International Labor Organization told CNBC on Friday, comparing the jobs crisis to the 2008-2009 financial crisis and warning it needs to be tackled urgently.

“We have gone backwards. It is quite alarming to see…that unemployment has not gone down, in fact it’s gone up,” Ryder told CNBC at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Moscow.

He said 93 million people were currently unemployed in the G20.

And when those living in G20 nations lose their jobs, they tend to stay out of work for a very long time.  In fact, 30 percent of unemployed workers in G20 countries have been out of work for one year or longer.

Major industrialized nations all over the planet are no longer able to produce enough jobs for their people.  In many “wealthy nations” the unemployment rate has already risen well up into double digits.  Just consider the following numbers…

-The unemployment rate is above 25 percent in South Africa.

-The unemployment rate in France recently hit a 15 year high.

-The unemployment rate in Italy is up to 12.2 percent, which is the highest in 35 years.

-The unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole is up to an all-time high of 12.2 percent.

-The unemployment rate in Poland is 13.2 percent.

-The unemployment rate in Ireland is now 13.6 percent.

-The unemployment rate in Portugal has rocketed up to 17.7 percent.

-The unemployment rate in Greece is currently sitting at 26.9 percent and it is being projected that it will soon hit 30 percent.

-The unemployment rate in Spain is even worse than in Greece.  The unemployment rate in Spain is a staggering 27.2 percent.

Sadly, it looks like things are not going to be getting better any time soon.  In fact, global business confidence is now the lowest that it has been since the last recession.

So what about the United States?

Well, it is true that our official numbers do not look quite as bad as much of the rest of the world.  But the official unemployment rate in the U.S. has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row.  That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.

But at least it is not in double digits yet.

Things could be worse.

However, that does not mean that we are doing well either.

The mainstream media is attempting to convince us that everything is just fine because the unemployment rate has been “going down”, but when you take a deeper look at the numbers that is not exactly an accurate assessment of our situation.

As the New York Times recently pointed out, the decline in the unemployment rate can almost entirely be accounted for by a decline in the labor participation rate…

Let’s take a step back. Lots of people lost jobs during the Great Recession. In the aftermath, the great surprise has been how few are looking for new jobs. Labor force participation, the share of adults working or trying to find work, has stagnated at about 63.5 percent, almost three percentage points below the pre-recession level.

The unemployment rate has dropped almost entirely because of this decline in labor force participation. In other words, it has not fallen because people are finding jobs. It has fallen because fewer people are looking for jobs.

To get a more accurate picture of what is really happening with employment in America, you need to look at the employment-population ratio.  It is a measurement of the percentage of the working age population that is actually working.  As you can see, the percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job has been declining since the year 2000…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

As you can see, there has been no employment recovery.

When the mainstream media tells you that the employment numbers for June were “great”, that is not being honest.  The truth is that the unemployment rate rose in 28 U.S. states and it only declined in 11 states during June, and as I mentioned yesterday, the U.S. economy actually lost 240,000 full-time jobs last month.

So no, things are not getting better, and the unemployment problems in the United States and in Europe are likely going to continue to get worse in the years ahead.

That is very bad news for most of us, because the only thing that most of us have to offer in the marketplace is our labor.  If the value that is placed on our labor is continually declining, then that puts us in a very difficult position.

It is almost as if we have all been drafted to play a very twisted game of musical chairs.  Each time the music stops, more chairs (jobs) are being pulled out of the game.

You might be doing okay for the moment, but what is going to happen when the music suddenly stops one day and your chair gets pulled out of the game?

That is something that you might want to start thinking about.

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