Anirban Basu

Host, Morning Economic Report

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants.  Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate.  Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes.  Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.

He is the author of numerous regional publications including the Mid-Atlantic Economic Quarterly and Outlook Maryland and is routinely asked to contribute to local media, including on his radio show on WTMD, 89.7 FM/Baltimore and here on WYPR's Morning Economic Forecast.  Anirban completed his graduate work in mathematical economics at the University of Maryland.  He earned a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University in 1992. His Bachelors in Foreign Service is from Georgetown University and was earned in 1990.  He is currently working toward his J.D. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the upbeat October jobs report was the zero point four percent monthly jump in average hourly earnings.  As pointed out by writer Greg Ip, wages are up by two point five percent over the past twelve months, the fastest pace of year-over-year wage growth since two thousand and nine. 

The recently released jobs report for October indicates that the number of Americans with full time jobs has at last stabilized above where it was prior to the recession.  As reported in the Wall Street Journal, more than one hundred and twenty two Americans were employed in full-time positions at the end of October. 

The U.S. labor market has now improved to the point that people without significant formal educational attainment are beginning to progress.  The unemployment rate for those who are at least twenty-five years old and lack a high school diploma declined to seven point four percent in October, a sharp drop from seven point nine percent in September according to the U.S. Labor Department. 

Many observers were cheered by the Labor Department’s announcement that the nation added an estimated two hundred and seventy one thousand jobs in October.  That was much better than the prior two months and persuaded many economists to upgrade their growth projections for twenty sixteen.  But economics isn’t called the dismal science arbitrarily. 

Two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case, have been analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources.  What they have found is simply startling.  These economists, who happen to be married to one another, found that unlike every other racial and ethnic group, and unlike every other age group, death rates are rising among middle-aged white Americans. 

Two economists, Jason Furman and Peter Orszag, indicate that mergers and acquisitions may be hurting the U.S. economy.  In many industries like airlines, telecom, health care, and even beer, mergers and acquisitions have expanded the market power of large corporations.  According to the economists, this has hurt consumers in the form of higher prices and is likely exacerbating income inequality. 

A recently released analysis from the U.S. Commerce Department identifies a key reason for the lack of robust economic growth in America during the current business cycle – a pullback in government spending.  According to the study, if the public sector hadn’t pulled back on spending since twenty ten, the economy would have expanded at nearly three percent per year rather than at roughly two percent per year. 

Construction has been one of the stronger aspects of the economy recently, including in the form of apartment, office and retail construction.  But the construction of U.S. religious buildings has been depressed for years.  This category of construction includes churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other religious structures. 

One of the reasons that consumers continue to move the U.S. economy forward is that they are spending more on things that they probably don’t need.  While separating needs from wants is partly an exercise in subjectivity, there are certain categories of goods and services that most people could probably do without if required. 

The U.S. economy expanded by a lackluster one point five percent on an annualized basis during the third quarter, but don’t blame consumers.  Spending by consumers on goods like furniture and services like healthcare and insurance advanced at more than twice the pace of the overall economy during the July to September quarter.