Photo: Jef Nickerson
There have been some disappointing economic numbers from the past three months, numbers which have surprised many economists. Some outside the field of economics are arguing that the recovery is weakening or isn't happening at all.
I don't find the recent numbers surprising, and I don't think for a minute that the economy is going into another free fall like it was doing through in 2008 and the early part of 2009. There's a central fact that so many people aren't even considering.
This has been a really bad winter.
Economic numbers are seasonably adjusted, but we have experienced unseasonably bad weather for the past three months. December was unusually cold by a considerable margin in most of the country. January and February were a bit below average in terms of temperature, but both months have been extremely wet. In most of the country, this has meant an enormous amount of snow. In Southern California, an important part of the national economy, it has meant bucketfuls of rain.
The consequences of this shitty weather are predictable. People are going out less. That means they are spending less money. It also means that people are spending less time out house hunting. The former is a huge deal in an economy largely based on consumer spending. The latter also is especially significant since finding a house takes a lot of time and effort, and delays in house hunting will slow down a major sector of our economy.
I should note to younger readers that middle aged and old people are much likelier to stay in during bad weather. So, if this analysis seams weird to you, remember that your body functions more efficiently than those of older folks.
Disappointing economic numbers from this period should be watched, but they shouldn't set off any alarms. Demand delayed by bad weather will show up once the weather gets less execrable. Obviously, if there was shockingly bad weather for a year, it could have longer range effects on our economy, but a bad winter doesn't rate as a cause for panic.
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