In order for that tipping point to happen, rates would need to continue rising above inflation, and inflation would need to remain low. These are the forecasts made by many gold sellers today; however I wouldn’t get too trigger happy just yet, as recent data challenges these assumptions.
Take the monthly unemployment figure, which is one of the primary indicators the Federal Reserve studies when evaluating the economy. But depending on the definition of an unemployed person, the numbers reveal different results.
The official U3 unemployment rate, the exact figure Ben Bernanke uses, tracks the total unemployed as a percent of the civilian labor force.
The broadest gauge calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the U6 unemployment rate. For this number, the BLS adds in all those people who are marginally attached to the labor force, plus people working part-time but want to work full-time.
What does “marginally attached to the labor force” mean? These people are neither working nor looking for work but indicate they want a job, are available to work and have worked during some period in the last 12 months. These marginally attached people also include discouraged workers who are not looking for work because of some job-market related reason.
Then there’s a measure of the labor market the BLS tracked prior to 1994. This is the seasonally-adjusted alternate unemployment rate that statistician John Williams continued to calculate. It’s basically the U6 plus long-term discouraged workers.
While the figures closely followed one another from 1994 through 2009, there’s recently been a shift. U3 and U6 have been trending downward over the past few years, whereas Williams’ ShadowStats unemployment rate shows a noticeably upward trajectory. Perhaps the official unemployment figure overstates the health of the economy?
Based on the jobs market, a limited housing recovery and regulations that have been slowing down the flow of money, the Fed may have no choice but to raise rates very gradually to keep stimulating the economy.