Now that the average price of gasoline in the United States is clocking in at all-time record levels for this time of year, especially in California, what effect will that factor have upon the official U.S. unemployment rate, which just clocked in at its lowest level since early 2009?
Unfortunately, that's the wrong question to be asking today, because it takes roughly two years for a major change in the price of oil and gasoline to play out and fully impact the U.S. unemployment rate. The right question to ask today is: "what was the price of gasoline doing two years ago that put the events in motion that are just now about to affect the U.S. economy?
The answer is revealed in our chart below, in which we've shifted the average price of motor gasoline in the United States forward in time by two years to visually correlate the price of gasoline with the recorded official U.S. unemployment rate for each month since January 1976 (or actually, since January 1978):
Here, we see that the U.S. unemployment rate has been tracking pretty closely with where the two-year time lagged price of gasoline in the U.S. would put it - including the "unexpectedly" low 7.8% unemployment rate that was just reported for September 2012.
The bad news is that if that correlation between the time-lagged price of gasoline and the U.S. unemployment rate continues, the U.S. is about to see a major spike upward in its unemployment rate, corresponding to the sustained surge in gasoline prices that began at the end of 2010.
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