For its part, the Federal Reserve recently released its Beige Book, which focuses on anecdotal evidence rather than numerical data. It concluded that the job market, while still hot, is showing signs of cooling. Nevertheless, policymakers seem more worried about inflation than recession. The Fed's Open Market Committee increased interest rates another quarter point at the May 2-3 meeting, but left them alone at the June 13-14 meeting.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its estimate of first-quarter U.S. GDP growth up from 1.1% to 1.3%. That's hardly a red-hot number. But it's not a recession either. And it's much better than the first-quarter 2022 decline of 1.6%.
The Consumer Price Index increased by 0.4% in April, after rising only 0.1% in March. Annual inflation is now 4.9%, a bit lower than expected and an indication that the previous rate hikes have had some impact. Wage growth even outpaced inflation in both March and April, so workers and job seekers are still holding a strong hand.
In rubber product manufacturing, U.S. employment changed little in the most recent report, from 135,500 in March to 135,800 in April. Tire manufacturing stayed flat at 58,400. Both figures are marginally higher than the year-earlier numbers of 134,600 and 58,100, respectively.
For now, we see no definite problems in the industry. But as Bruce Davis' recent article ("Wave of M&As Gathering Strength") reports, merger and acquisition activity sped up in 2023. Consolidation often brings job losses. We will have to wait to see how severe they may become.