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Strong and Stronger

That's how one might describe the economic numbers out Friday.

Better Places

THE BADLANDS -- Holy moly.

The January

employment report


released today.

(a) Average hourly earnings.

They rose 0.4% and look (right now anyway) to have put in a local trough. Growth accelerated to a 3.7% year-on-year rate from a 3.5% rate in December from a 3.3% rate in November.

(b) Payrolls.

They rose 387k (compare to an average 286k during the fourth quarter and an average 227k for all of 1999). Growth accelerated to a 2.3% year-on-year rate from a 2.1% rate in December.

This number will get bigger because the manufacturing sector is highly unlikely to shed an average 21k jobs per month again this year.

(c) The unemployment rate.

It fell to 4% (compare to 4.3% in January 1999) from 4.1% in December.

The pool of available workers also fell on both its month-ago and year-ago level.

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(d) The index of aggregate hours.

It rose 0.6%. It will end up showing a 3% (annual) first-quarter increase even if it drops 0.1% this month and rises only two-tenths (its average monthly increase since 1996) in March. That will go down as the biggest quarterly increase since the first three months of 1998.

Keep in mind that hours worked plus productivity equals output.

And that the headline productivity measures are trending at about 3%.




future inflation gauge (which we have featured

here) was growing at a 16.9% smoothed annual rate as of last month. The

Center for International Business Cycle Research's

leading inflation index was clocking in at 8.6%, a rate not seen since the end of 1994.

Hey. Remember that

hard-landing speech?

Man. That might be worth another look.