News out this afternoon is that Obama is looking into opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a means to relieve pressure at the gas pump. Someone at the White House woke up and realized that the welcome springtime fall in gasoline prices has reversed course and retraced its steps, as shown in the first chart below of gasoline futures prices. I can tell you that out here on the Left Coast, the price of premium gasoline has reached $4.99 a gallon at my nearest station, but then California deserves it. (The recent refinery fire at Richmond, which will reduce capacity for a few weeks, clearly doesn’t help.)
But this isn’t the only chart that should be giving night sweats to Team Obama right now. We and others have pointed repeatedly to the infamous “Stimulus” chart, to which we add today’s news that the unemployment rate rose in 44 of the 50 states last month.
What may be even more politically devastating is the lengthening duration of unemployment, and the evident lack of dynamism even in the private sector areas where jobs are opening up. The next chart below shows what is called the “Beveridge Curve,” brought to our attention by the interesting folks behind the very useful SoberLook.com site.
The Beveridge Curve, as SoberLook explains it:
compares job vacancies as a fraction of total labor force with the unemployment rate. It allows one to study, among other things, labor inefficiency and labor mobility. If there are job openings in one part of the country or one industry, but the unemployed are unable to fill those openings due to geographical or skill mobility constraints, the Beveridge curve would show it.
Barclays Capital has recently looked at the Beveridge Curve for the US. The curve “regime” has shifted significantly in the post-recession environment.
Read the whole thing, which concludes that we’re seeing not just a cyclical adjustment in the economy, but perhaps a long-term structural shift—what in ordinary language we call “the new normal”—that isn’t good.
Add to this the final chart below, which shows the much higher number of long-term unemployed in this economic downturn—much worse than in any cycle in the last 60 years. This has to have electoral consequences, and they can’t be good for Obama.