Economy Still Weird
Happy Monday! Finishing the newsletter last night, we realized we should probably mention that British thing that happened this weekend at least once. So consider this our mention of that British thing that happened.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Bureau of Labor statistics reported Friday that U.S. employers added 253,000 jobs in April, well above expectations and the largest month-over-month gain since January. The unemployment rate ticked down from 3.5 to 3.4 percent, and the labor force participation rate held steady at 62.6 percent. Average hourly earnings—a measure the Federal Reserve is watching closely in its fight against inflation—rose 0.5 percent month-over-month in April, and 4.4 percent year-over-year.
- The head of the Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seemed to reverse course over the weekend after threatening Friday to pull his mercenary forces out of the campaign for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut due to arms shortages. After the unprecedented break between the Russian defense ministry and the force that typically operates in lockstep with the Kremlin, Russia reportedly promised additional ammunition.
- Ukrainian military officials confirmed Saturday the country successfully shot down a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv last week, marking the first time the Ukrainians have successfully used their newly acquired Patriot missile defense system to down one of Russia’s most advanced weapons.
- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday stayed the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, days after Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond filed a brief in support of Glossip, arguing his trial was “unfair and unreliable.” Glossip, who was scheduled to be executed on May 18, was convicted of arranging for the murder of his boss, but recently discovered documents appear to show the prosecution concealed that their star witness—the man Glossip allegedly paid to murder his boss—suffered from bipolar affective disorder. The stay will remain in place until the Court decides whether or not to hear Glossip’s appeal.
- A Friday court filing revealed that at least eight of the 16 false Georgia electors who planned to declare former President Donald Trump the winner of their state’s 2020 presidential contest have accepted immunity deals in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation of attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The brief filed by the electors’ defense attorney shows the electors will be immune from prosecution if they testify truthfully in the probe.
- President Joe Biden defended his son Hunter in an interview that aired on Friday, telling MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle he believes his son—who could soon face federal tax and firearms charges—“has done nothing wrong,” adding that he “trust[s] him” and has “faith in him.” The White House has pledged not to interfere in the inquiry being led by David Weiss—the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney in Delaware—but an agent at the Internal Revenue Service has reportedly sought whistleblower protections to share information suggesting the Biden administration is obstructing the investigation.
- The White House announced Friday Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will resign from her post next month after more than two years on the job. Biden has not yet named her replacement. Meanwhile, the White House announced Neera Tanden, a senior adviser and staff secretary at the White House, will replace the departing Susan Rice as Biden’s domestic policy adviser. Biden originally tapped Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but her nomination stalled in the Senate in part due to lawmakers’ disdain for her previous hyperpartisan social media activity.
- A 33-year-old man opened fire at a mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before being shot dead by a police officer who was attending to an unrelated matter at the mall. The gunman—who was reportedly briefly in the Army before being “removed due to mental health concerns”—arrived at the mall wearing a tactical vest and with multiple firearms in his truck, and local authorities are investigating whether the massacre may have been racially motivated. A patch featuring extremist insignia was reportedly found on the gunman’s chest.
- At least eight people were killed—and ten more injured—when a man driving a Land Rover plowed into them Sunday morning while they were waiting at a bus stop outside a Catholic Charities homeless shelter in Brownsville, Texas. The driver—reportedly a Hispanic male in his 30s or 40s—has been detained and charged with reckless driving, but local law enforcement said he has been uncooperative, giving them multiple names and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. Authorities are working to determine whether the crash was targeted, an accident, or the result of intoxication or a medical event.
- Mage—a three-year-old colt trained by Gustavo Delgado—won the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday with a time of 2:01.57. A remarkable seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the days leading up the race, however, casting a pall over the festivities.
Recession? What Recession?
Entering 2023, just about every economic indicator out there seemed to be pointing to a contraction. After an unprecedented barrage of interest-rate hikes, hiring was starting to slow, inflation finally seemed to be cooling off, and an increasing number of economists were predicting a recession would begin sometime in the second quarter of the year. Those storm clouds are still out there more than four months later, but even after a few more hikes from the Federal Reserve and the collapse of several large banks, the American economy is still chugging along.
U.S. employers added 253,000 jobs in April, according to the Labor Department’s latest employment situation summary released Friday—well above consensus expectations of 185,000 and the largest month-over-month gain since January. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.4 percent, bolstered by gains across a number of sectors, including business services, health care, hospitality, and even construction—an industry that typically sees job losses when borrowing costs are high.
But April’s unexpectedly robust figure shouldn’t detract from the fact that hiring is slowing. According to revised figures from the Labor Department, employers have averaged 222,000 job gains over the past three months. At this time last year, that average was 524,000.