November’s trade figures, released this morning, provide further evidence of an intensifying global economic slump, both globally and in the U.S. First the good news in the report: imports of manufactured goods fell by $4.4 billion and are down by almost $12 billion from their high in March of this year. That would be better news if it meant a shift to manufacturing in the U.S. But that’s clearly not the case, with U.S. manufacturing in a deep recession. Instead, it’s evidence of a slow-down in consumer spending – a sign that the U.S. may be slipping toward recession.
The news on exports is worse. Exports of manufactured goods fell to $104.7 billion in November, the lowest reading since March of 2011. (Remember Obama’s pledge to double exports by 2015?) The slump in exports is further evidence of a slow-down in the rest of the world’s economy. Here’s a chart of imports and exports of manufactured goods: Manf’d exports vs. goal. It’s worth noting that, if exports had reached Obama’s goal and had simply held at that level, exports would be $67 billion per month higher than they were in November. That’s enough to put over ten million people back to work. What has the president done to actually make this happen? Absolutely nothing, which is no surprise, since neither he nor anyone else has any control over exports. It was just grandstanding on his part, designed to draw attention away from the fact that, contrary to his campaign promises, he would do nothing to rein in imports.
This trade report is just one more slumping economic indicator that heralds a bleak start for the economy in 2016.