Each month this year, I am tracking the predictions two economists made earlier regarding how high U.S. unemployment will grow. This is to test my theory that talking-head econopundits are rarely correct. However, in March, the economists I’m following can gloat, as unemployment ticked upward, despite a jump in the number of payrolls.
In March, the unemployment rate grew to 5.7% (from 5.5% in February, 5.6 in January and 5.8 in December).
My two tracked econopundits are:
Bruce Steinberg, Merrill Lynch Chief Economist, who said last month he expects the unemployment rate will continue to rise through the middle of the year, possibly to as high as 6%.
Bill Cheney, chief economist for John Hancock, a classic two-handed pundit who said last month there was a good chance that Feburary’s good numbers were a statistical fluke. (After two months earlier saying that December’s 5.8 number was too difficult to call as “the bottom.”) In other words, we don’t know what Mr. Cheney predicts.
Addendum (4.5/5 p.m.): Cheney speaks: CNN/Money reports on today’s numbers and includes a quote from Mr. Cheney which I think says that the unemployment numbers are heading down in the future, after they head up some more.
“We’re still several months away from job growth catching up with labor force growth and driving the unemployment rate back down, but that’s really just a matter of time,” said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services. “Our economy is moving again, and once that happens it’s actually quite hard to stop the forward momentum.”