State index suggests the R Word may be looming

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New York’s conservative Empire Center think tank is urging fiscal caution as Albany gears up for its annual budget negotiations amid signs that the current economic expansion has run its course.

Most troubling is the Labor Department’s Index of Coincident Economic Indicators, which weighs such key economic indicators as private sector employment, the unemployment rate, average weekly hours of manufacturing workers and sales tax collections. The index dropped at a 2.6 percent annual rate in December, the fourth consecutive month of decline.

Since the inception of the ICEI in 1970, a four-month decline has always – that’s always – signaled a recession.

As the Labor Department website cautions, the index does not predict how the state’s economy may be performing in the future. “However, the index is the closest thing we have to a general current conditions and trends report for the state,” McMahon noted.

Measured on a comparative yearly basis, the index was up just 0.9 percent from 2015, one of the weakest performances in the past half century.

Of course, that does not guarantee that the state is heading for an economic downturn. In an economy less reliant on manufacturing employment, the factors used to pro

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