Monday, December 28, 2015

Growth Ain't What It Used To Be and Won't Be Coming Back Anytime Soon...Here's Why

Growth is all about greater flow, not stock.  Said otherwise, growth in consumption and GDP generally happens via population growth, wage growth, and/or credit growth...the greatest being population growth.  So, in that context, the below probably matters (a lot).

In 2008, the US Census Bureau projected strong population gains through 2050 helping to drive growing consumption and US economic growth.  The projected population growth was generally balanced across age segments primarily driven by gains in young Hispanics due to higher birth rates and immigration.  But in 2012, in a story here the Census acknowledged that these were bad assumptions as these trends were not continuing, as had been expected.  In December of 2014, again here, the US Census affirmed and further downgraded it's population projections from 2012.  The Census now anticipates a 32% reduction from it's previous 2008 projections for US population growth from 2015 to 2050 (or about 36 million fewer Americans...chart below).

The US is still projected to grow by 77m but significantly less than the previous estimate of 113m.  95% of the cuts to the population growth are in the under 45yr/old population.  As the chart below highlights, the cuts among the 0-24 and 25-44 populations were massive...the change in growth among the 45 and older miniscule.

The chart below highlights the reductions in population growth across the age segments, and as mentioned above, the 0-24yr/old population growth was slashed by 76% or 24 million fewer youth and 40% fewer 25-44yr/olds.  That this isn't front page news is, I suppose, a sign of the times.  GDP and potential economic growth estimates weren't ratcheted back to match the huge slowdown in young vs. continuing growth among older populations. 

Although the Census doesn't exactly say it, the numbers (chart below) show clearly that the primary downgrade is due to the US Hispanic total population being cut by 21% based on decelerating birth rates and slowing immigration (total 2050 est. #'s slightly off from above due to rounding and differing sources w/in Census data).  All kinds of reasons for those changes, however that's not my point here...the negative impact on economic growth is. 

For those wondering when economic growth will be getting back to "normal"...the US Census has made it clear there is a "new abnormal" the new abnormal population growth is among the old.  Growth is flat to down among the young.  Wage growth is next to nil.  The only hope for those awaiting "trend" growth is another doubling or tripling of credit / debt every seven years or so to move the needle along.  Never mind that's pretty much next to impossible without the wheels coming off the cart.

And for those curious, even during the Great Depression, there was population growth of the young to at least maintain rising consumption...but this time around in the Greater Depression, the world faces overcapacity, too much debt, and flat to declining young the world over (except Africa) only offset by the liability that is the rapidly rising older population.  For those believing the rest of the world will carry the day here is an article outlining the breakdown of population growth worldwide (again, except for huge gains in Africa).

Welcome to the new abnormal which the Fed, Federal .Gov, nor Wall St. will acknowledge.  And if our leadership won't even acknowledge there is a problem, we can take none of the necessary (though painful) steps to begin a resolution.

According to the Census, by 2050, the 85 and over US population will grow double that of the under 18 population (12.7 million while the under 18 population will grow by 6.3 million).  This doesn't bode well.