Only 23% of US Companies Plan to Hire in Next 6 Months; "Lights Out" Moment Coming Up

Mike Shedlock
Posted: Jul 17, 2012 12:01 AM

According to the latest survey from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) hiring over the next six months looks grim.

A NABE Poll Shows Fewer U.S. Companies Planning to Hire

Only 23 percent of the firms polled in June plan to add to staff in the next six months, the National Association for Business Economics said on Monday.

NABE's prior survey, conducted in late March and early April, had shown 39 percent of companies planning to add workers.

A July 6 Labor Department report, showed companies asked employees to work longer hours last month, even though they slowed the pace of hiring.

Among companies that produce goods rather than provide services, the impact was even greater, with nearly four in five reporting a Europe-driven decline in revenues.

Three months earlier, only about a quarter of total firms polled thought sales had fallen

Lights Out Moment Coming Up

This report is consistent with my report US Manufacturing ISM Contracts for First Time in Three Years; New Orders and Prices Plunge; Perfect Miss: 0 of 70 Economists Polled By Bloomberg Expected Contraction

Hiring plans are also consistent with the Case for US and Global Recession Right Here, Right Now.

All of a sudden, consumers and businesses alike are going to have a "lights out" moment where orders dry up, hiring dries up, and unemployment heads north.

If the NABE poll is correct (and it is certainly consistent with other data), that time has arrived.

Still More on Credit-Worthiness of Bank Lending in Housing Bubble: Loan Originations vs. True Bank Lending

In response to Reader Questions on "Credit-Worthiness": Did Banks Give Mortgages to Non-Creditworthy Borrowers? I received an email from reader David, who wanted to expand on point number 5 below from my post.

This is what I stated, adding the words [banks thought]. The email from reader David follows this recap.

Five Reasons Banks Extended Credit in Housing Bubble Years

  1. [Banks thought] People would pay mortgage loans because they always did
  2. [Banks thought] Housing prices would rise sufficiently to cover defaults
  3. [Banks thought] Mortgage interest rates to subprime borrowers were high enough to cover risk
  4. [Banks thought] Defaults would happen over a long period of time, not quickly concentrated
  5. Banks could pass the trash to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (without clawbacks for non-performance), and/or loans could be sliced and diced in tranches to investors

If any of those conditions were true, then banks were indeed making loans to "credit-worthy" borrowers. Subprime borrowers did pay a huge penalty rate. Multiple combinations of the above five points are likely.

Huge Mistakes Coupled With Greed

Banks made huge mistakes because all five conditions above failed, far sooner than banks or the Fed expected. Recall that Bernanke did not believe there was a housing bubble at all!

Thus, at the time, banks thought they were making creditworthy loans.

They thought wrong, in a big way, and they were very greedy as well. Greed coupled with poor thinking is a very bad combination.

What About Now?

Banks are not lending now for three reasons

  1. Banks are capital impaired
  2. Banks are worried about being repaid
  3. The relatively small pool of credit-worthy borrowers who banks would lend to right now, do not want credit

Stunning Change in Attitudes

Another way of looking at the five points pertaining to the "housing bubble years" is there has been a stunning change in attitudes regarding how banks perceive "credit-worthiness" as well as a stunning change in willingness of consumers to go deeper in debt.

Conclusion: Then as now, banks only lend to customers they think are credit-worthy.

However, Attitudes on what it takes to be "credit-worthy" have changed.

Attitudes are the key to understanding this apparent conundrum.

Email Regarding Point Number Five

Reader David wants to emphasize point number five ...

Hello Mish

Please emphasize that in the mortgage bubble, banks did not lend for the most part, they originated. Thus creditworthiness was not a factor since the agents who would face most of the losses were not banks, they were instead Fannie/Freddie, investors of MBS paper and especially investors of structured MBS paper and CDO's.

The banks themselves only held inventory of super-senior paper which they expected had enough cushion to absorb any losses. Moreover, the banks held this paper off-balance sheet in SIV's and other conduits which technically were separate from the bank.

Thus the loan-origination process asked not whether the borrower was credit-worthy, it asked only whether that loan could be sold on for a profit.

David is clearly correct.

So I wish to reiterate ... If banks think they will make enough profit to compensate for the risks they take, then they make loans.

If they think they will make adequate profit on the loans, then by definition, they think they are making credit-worthy loans.

Of course, as I pointed out, what banks thought would happen and what actually happened are two different things. Regardless of what did happen, banks thought they were making credit-worthy loans.

Banks did originate tons of garbage (on purpose), but only with the intent to immediately pass the trash, not to hold the loan. The distinction is extremely important.

Recall this discussion of "credit-worthy" lending is but a subpoint in the discussion of my original post regarding bank reserves: Can Bernanke Force Banks to Lend by Halting Interest on Excess Reserves?.

Regardless of any discussion of credit-worthy lending, the answer is still the same: Bernanke cannot force banks to lend by lowering interest on excess reserves to zero.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock