Numbers that Matter
If Washington can work out a debt ceiling compromise, the U.S. plastics industry seems to be in good shape, thanks to an improving housing market and lower inflation, according to Plastics News Economics Editor Bill Wood.
Bill Wood: "For now, I am inclined to stay patient, but vigilant. ... There are headwinds, but nothing to justify more dramatic action just yet."
At the peak, there were more than two openings for every unemployed worker in the U.S. As of this past February, the ratio had fallen to close to 1.7 jobs for every worker.
Economics Editor Bill Wood: "At the present time, I am not forecasting either a soft landing or a hard landing this year. But I am not ruling anything out."
Economics Editor Bill Wood: The trick going forward is to tease out the signals from the noise. The push and pull relationship between demand and prices during the past three years will take years to understand completely.
In 2022, the total number of house starts declined by an estimated 2 percent compared with 2021. For 2023, Economics Editor Bill Wood's forecast calls for the annual total to drop another 10-15 percent.
Bill Wood: "It is no secret that Jerome Powell and friends are aggressively attempting to temper consumer demand in a quest to quell inflation. But do they possess the skill — or luck — to pull the rate of inflation down to an acceptable level and also avoid a contraction in overall economic activity?"