Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

Today’s Agenda

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

Yawn, More Job Growth

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The U.S. economic expansion that premiered 10 years ago is good but boring, like a long-running TV show past its prime. The latest episode hints at a grand finale down the road, though.

The U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs last month, and unemployment tumbled to 3.6 percent, the lowest since Richard Nixon’s first term. Great, but: Yawn! Jobs have grown for 103 straight months now. Under the hood, things were a little grittier. Unemployment fell because 490,000 people dropped out of the job market, which is not a good sign. And wage growth was as dull as ever on this old show.

During the Donald Trump administration, however, wage growth has been unusually fantastic for top-level bankersMark Whitehouse points out — just as Trump’s blue-collar voters were promised:

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

And health-care hiring continued to surge, notes Justin Fox, another long-running subplot:

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

But a health-care boom is not necessarily a great sign for the broader economy, notes Justin. It’s a “low-productivity sector,” he writes, and when it starts to outpace the broader job market, that could be a sign of a recession.

Anyway, the relentless strength of the economy has to be Trump’s strongest selling point going into the 2020 election. Richard Carroll points out Trump’s economic policy recipe — cutting taxes and regulation while boosting spending — did not ultimately work out so well for George W. Bush, or the rest of us. Still, it could be a while before that particular plot line wraps up.

Bonus economy reading: Rising productivity explains why inflation is low, and why the Fed should leave rates alone despite a strong job market. – Karl W. Smith 

When a Berkshire Buy-In Is a Mixed Blessing

Warren Buffett has created at least seven Berkshire Hathaway Inc. billionaires partly by keeping fast-growing, money-burning tech companies out of his investment vehicle’s portfolio. So it may seem odd that Berkshire has lately been buying shares of the infamous cash pyromaniac Amazon.com Inc. But Shira Ovide notes Amazon — while still not quite the value play Buffett typically favors — is growing much more slowly these days, and making a bit more profit, than it once did. Whether that’s something other investors beyond Berkshire Hathaway will enjoy, Shira is less sure.

Trump’s Soulmate, William Barr

Former FBI director James Comey wrote this week about how Trump “eats” the “soul” of his employees, turning formerly strong-willed, accomplished individuals into spineless toadies. But Attorney General William Barr is not such a person, writes Tim O’Brien, because Barr’s soul has always been aligned with Trump’s on the issue of whether the presidency should be exempt from the laws of mere commoners. Barr seems more than comfortable doing whatever Trump needs, including subverting the rule of law and misleading Congress and the American people, Tim writes.

Bonus political reading: Don’t trust Joe Biden’s early polling bounce; the Dem race (soon to include Bill de Blasio) is still wide open. – Jonathan Bernstein 

Bleep Blorp I’m a Restau-bot

Having seen brick-and-mortar retail decimated by the rise of online shopping, the restaurant industry has long been bracing for its own digital apocalypse. The latest quarter's industry profit reports suggest that future has already arrived, writes Sarah Halzack. Happily, many chains, from Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. to McDonald’s Corp., seem to be adapting to the new paradigm fairly well, despite the added complicating factors of third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats.

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

Telltale Charts

Though investor cash keeps pouring into blockchain technology, it  could prove to be useless, warns Noah Smith

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

Adidas AG has Beyonce and a lot more going for it in the race against Nike Inc., writes Andrea Felsted. So why is it playing things so safe?  

Dark Linings in a Sunny Jobs Report

Further Reading

Iran’s prisoner-exchange offer shows economic pressure is working; Trump should reject it and seek a grand bargain instead. – Bloomberg’s editorial board 

Deutsche Bank AG shareholders should think about the one constant in the bank’s recent history of problems: Chairman Paul Achleitner. – Elisa Martinuzzi 

It’s time to expand the Five Eyes intel-sharing alliance to include Israel and Japan. – James Stavridis 

China’s recent stimulus has been narrow and targeted, fitting neatly with Beijing’s efforts to cut risky debt. – Dinny McMahon 

Big Agriculture is fostering the global rise of deadly, drug-resistant bacteria and fungi. – Mark Buchanan 

It’s great that fake meat is becoming more popular, as seen in Beyond Meat Inc.’s red-hot IPO yesterday. It’s less great that venture capitalists are so involved. – Conor Sen

Here’s a simple thought experiment for parents who aren’t sure about vaccinating their kids. – Faye Flam

ICYMI

China’s deadly swine virus is affecting the global food chain.

Deutsche Bank has seen Trump’s tax returns.

Kickers

If it rains at the Kentucky Derby, bet on the mudder. (h/t Ellen Kominers)

Update: Russia's spy whale has defected to Norway. (h/t Scott Kominers)

We need a new physics to explain the emergence of life.

Scientists use americium to generate electricity, with implications for space travel.

What number of kids makes parents happy?

Note: Please send pork and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

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