This commentary originally appeared in Forbes on October 2, 2015.
This September, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its first year-over-year monthly loss, 4.4 percent, since September 2009 when the index was off 13.3 percent from 12 months earlier.
In other news, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today that seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 142,000 in September, far lower than analysts expected. Further, the BLS made downward revisions to the previous two months totaling 59,000 fewer jobs with monthly job gains averaging an anemic 167,000 for the last three months.
Economists consider employment to be a lagging economic indicator. The figure below shows the Dow’s recent sluggishness potentially signaling a slowdown in the jobs market.
While it’s too early to tell, if the U.S. were to enter a recession, one wonders what the Federal Reserve can do, given that their multi-year near-zero interest rate policy is analogous to driving a down the highway with the accelerator pegged to the floorboard.
Should the U.S. begin to show recessionary signs in the next few months, look for the presidential campaigns—and the public—to take a renewed and urgent interest in economic policy.