Inflation is subsiding, unemployment is low, and wage growth is modest. Problems in the banking industry provide some concern. The biggest concern for the economy is that the Federal Reserve (the Fed) will continue to push interest rates higher, hurting banks, increasing unemployment, and possibly pushing the economy into a recession.

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Annual inflation in March was 5.0% (i.e., consumer prices were 5% higher than a year earlier). This continued the steady decline in annual inflation since its peak of 9.0% last June. Consumer prices increased just 0.1% from February to March, which would be an annualized inflation rate of just 1.2%. Consumer prices for housing (a component of the overall inflation rate) increased 0.6% from February to March, but that is expected to decline. Note that housing costs have risen in part because of the Federal Reserves’ increases in interest rates, which increase the cost of mortgages, depress the production of new housing, and reduce the purchases of homes. The latter two increase the number of people needing rental housing, which pushes up rents. [1]

Wholesale prices fell in March, down 0.5% from February. For the whole year, they were up only 2.7%. Wholesale price inflation is generally considered an indicator of future consumer price inflation, so this suggests that consumer inflation will continue to fall. [2] In addition, wage increases have been modest, around 4% on an annual basis. This is lower than the annual price increase, so wage growth is not driving inflation. [3]

Given that inflation appears to be under control and with the uncertainty in banking industry in mind (due to the collapse of three banks in March in part due to high interest rates), the Fed and Chairman Powell should at least pause interest rate hikes.

Powell’s recent interest rate hikes have caused the value of banks’ investments in bonds to fall an estimated $620 billion as-of the end of 2022. The Fed has announced a bailout for banks with bond losses; a safety net for financiers for a systemic crisis created by the Feds’ dramatic interest rate increases. In addition, the Fed has announced what is in effect a bailout for foreign central banks (i.e., other countries’ equivalent of the Fed), so that their dollar-based holdings don’t rapidly flow out to be invested in the high interest rates available in the U.S. [4]

Corporate profits have played a central role in creating and sustaining the inflation experienced since 2021. Profit markups (the percentage that profits are of all production costs) in the non-financial corporate sector of the economy jumped from about 12.5% in 2017 through early 2020 to an average of 15% from the 2nd quarter of 2020 through 2023. Putting this in terms of inflation, from 2017 through early 2020, profits represented 13% of inflation, with labor costs being almost 60% and non-labor costs about 30%. From the 2nd quarter of 2020 through the end of 2022, profits represented over one-third of inflation (about 34%), while labor costs and non-labor costs each accounted for roughly one-third of inflation (about 33%). The noteworthy change is that the contribution of profits to inflation jumped from 12.5% to 34%.

Given that the Feds’ increases in interest rates have no effect on corporate profit markups and no effect on the supply chain issues (which have been a major contributor to inflation but are easing), further interest rate increases are likely to be ineffective in reducing inflation. Moreover, they may push the economy into a recession, which won’t be good for anyone. [5]

Unemployment has fallen to 3.5%, the lowest level since 1969, while Black unemployment is at an all-time low of 5.0%. The percentage of prime age workers (those 25 to 54 years old) who are in the labor force is the highest it’s been since 2001. This is all good news for workers.

Much of the credit for this good jobs news goes to President Biden and the Democrats in Congress for passing the American Rescue Plan in the spring of 2021. Much of the mainstream media chooses to ignore the health of the job market and fails to give Biden and the Democrats credit for this accomplishment. By way of contrast, it took nearly 13 years for the job market to recover to this extent after the Great Recession of 2008. A major reason for this difference is that the 2009 stimulus package was much smaller and, in hindsight, clearly inadequate (as many progressives said at the time). Biden was Vice President then and may have learned a lesson from that experience that informed his decision to go big in 2021. In addition, President Biden’s economic advisors are ones who are more focused on Main St. and workers than on Wall St. and financiers. In contrast, in 2009, President Obama’s economic advisors were Wall St.-types – Bob Rubin, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers. [6]

[1]      Kuttner, R., 4/12/23, “Will the Fed wreck an improving economy?” The American Prospect Blog (

[2]      Wiseman, P., 4/14/23, “Wholesale inflation pressure eases,” The Boston Globe from the Associated Press

[3]      Kuttner, R., 4/12/23, see above

[4]      Galbraith, J. K., April 17/24, 2023, “The Fed, the banks, and the dollar,” The Nation (

[5]      Bivens, J., 3/30/23, “Even with today’s slowdown, profit growth remains a big driver of inflation in recent years,” Economic Policy Institute (

[6]      Meyerson, H., 4/13/23, “Are good jobs good news?” The American Prospect Blog (


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