Minimum income proponents celebrate 'defeat,' US job numbers disappoint, hike delayed

Published 07.06.2016 00:54
Updated 07.06.2016 00:55

On Sunday, Switzerland voted in a referendum rejecting a minimum basic income. The Swiss became the first country to hold a nationwide vote on the subject and the supporters of the measure actually celebrated following their defeat. Supporters argue that while near 77 percent of the votes came in against the basic income proposal, 23 percent did support it, giving them a foot-hold in the electorate for future ballots.

The Swiss "minimum basic income" camp proposed giving every adult a basic income of approximately $2,500 and around $600 per child. A variety of basic income proposals have gained momentum in recent years with several European nations implementing smaller pilot programs to measure the effect on productivity and overall economic well-being of communities in which these programs exist. The purpose of the pilot programs is to use them as proxies for the greater national economy in each country they exist. Organizers who gathered the initial 100,000 signatures that put the question on the ballot believe this is only the first step in a longer struggle to fight income inequality in Europe. Although the Swiss did reject the referendum on Sunday, decreasing the amount of the "basic income" or adding conditions will almost certainly end in the ultimate acceptance of such proposals in countries that suffer from such incredible income-inequality.

Across the Atlantic, Americans looking for incomes shared the fate of their Swiss counterparts with a massive setback. On Friday, the United States Labor Department's release of "non-farm payroll" numbers shocked financial markets, coming in at their lowest levels in nearly six years. The U.S. economy added only 38,000 jobs in May, off nearly 75 percent from predicted levels of near 200,000 jobs. While Federal Reserve (Fed) officials had recently been touting a near certain increase in the federal funds rate at their June meeting, the benchmark tool used by the Fed to alter interest rates, Friday's awful numbers almost certainly kill any possibility of a rate hike in June and may indicate a delay in rate hikes until the fall.

While the payroll numbers came in well below estimates, economists theorized a potential silver lining might reveal itself in the unemployment numbers. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in May, a rate termed "near full-employment" by Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren at a conference Monday morning held in Finland. A closer inspection of the report reveals that nearly half a million Americans dropped out of the labor market, thereby skewing the unemployment data. In fact, the labor participation rate declined by 0.4 percentage in May, bringing that figure down to 62.6 percent. There was actually hope of a recovery in the participation rate in the last few months as it had risen 0.5 percent since last November, however, those gains were quickly wiped away in May. At its current level, the labor participation rate is at near 40-year lows.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen was also slated to speak later Monday afternoon in Philadelphia at the World Affairs Council. While her remarks did not make it to the publication of this column, I can only guess that Yellen reiterated increase rate hikes if supported by the data. As it stands, the May numbers were dismal and continued contraction of job growth would call into question any rate hikes at all for the coming months.

Currently, financial markets price a July rate hike at near 30 percent and a June hike, in the aftermath of Friday's numbers, at single digits. What does this mean for the U.S., global markets, and specifically Turkey and other emerging markets? A slowdown in job growth, coupled with a low participation rate would point to another major recession in the U.S. Such a recession would hurt China and the EU and would lead to a sell-off in equities and a rally in bond markets with yield. As rates are already near zero in mature markets, emerging markets could see inflows.

In November of 2014 I had predicted only one rate hike by the end of the 2016 and I had thought it would come this June. At the time markets predicted 7 rate hikes by the end of 2016. The Fed raised rates in December of 2015 making it the first rate hike in a decade. On May 10th I predicted another rate hike in June in the absence of any surprises. Following my comments the Fed nearly promised a Fed hike this June, however, it appears that this latest "surprise" has caused any hike to be delayed and should job growth not improve, my initial prediction may be proven correctly with no other rate hikes this year.

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