Thursday, June 18, 2009

What economics books should a non-economist read?

Economics Books for Non-Economists

Students (and sometimes non-students) will often ask for recommendations on books to read. Here are a few books I recommend for those who want to learn more about economics:

1. Anything by Thomas Sowell. He writes clearly, his assertions are well-backed by research, and his books are stunningly insightful. If you don't know where to start, try "Economic Facts and Fallacies", or "The Quest for Cosmic Justice". I am currently reading "Black Rednecks and White Liberals". What I have learned in the first 20 pages was worth the price of the book many times over. One note - Sowell isn't light reading - but it is well worth the time and effort.

2. Freakonomics. This is a fun-to-read book that discusses how Steven Levitt (and others) have used economic methods and thinking to examine many different issues. Freakonomics 2 (superfreakonomics is coming out this week). I will certainly be purchasing it ASAP. I am hoping it is as entertaining ast he first.

3. Free to Choose. Milton Friedman's classic about capitalism and the economy is now 30 years old, but it still seems relevant.

Some other good economics books include: Nudge, What it Means to be a Libertarian, and Discover your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist.

Some non-economics books I like and that have some academic value:

- Malcolm Gladwell books (The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers). His books are well-researched and thought provoking. He generalizes his conclusions to much, but other than that these books are terrific.

- Gang Leader for a Day. A fascinating book about a sociology doctoral student who does research with a street gang. While not an economics/business book, it is interesting to see how a gang operates and the incentives/disincentives the gang leaders provide their employees.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Daily Item article on Employment in the Valley

Region's jobless rate improves

By Tricia Pursell

The Daily Item

June 02, 2009 06:36 am— Regional unemployment improved in April, but was still worse than the state and national averages, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

"We have been hurt very hard with manufacturing losses here," said Matthew Rousu, assistant professor of economics at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. "There are some sectors of the economy that haven't been hit as hard."

Snyder County's unemployment rate for April was 8.7 percent, an improvement from 9.1 percent in March -- a difference of 100 jobs.

In Northumberland County, the April rate was 9.6 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in March, and in Union County, the April rate was 8.8 percent compared to 9.4 percent in March.

Montour County bucked the trend. Its jobless rate got worse, going from 6.3 percent in March to 6.8 percent in April.

The state unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, and the national jobless rate is 8.6 percent.

April was the most recent month for which seasonally adjusted figures were available.

The seasonally adjusted rate, according to Scott Meckley, with the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, is used to check trends without the typical factors of job gain and loss at certain times of the year, such as construction declining in the winter and retail employment spiking over the holidays.

The unemployment rate numbers are not going to fluctuate too dramatically, Rousu said. They are numbers that move slowly beyond the overall economic condition of the nation. Little by little, the rates may drop, but "there are some areas that are still going to experience pain," he said.

A survey of economists that was published last week showed they all thought the recession would be over within nine months, Rousu said.

"Some are even thinking it's over," he said. "However, the unemployment rate is a lagging indicator. Even when the economy gets better, the unemployment rate is not going to improve as quickly as the economy improves.

"The reason is likely because employers err on the side of caution. "Firms are just trying to survive," he said. "It takes longer to catch up once the economy recovers."

When the most recent recession ended in 2001, the highest unemployment rate did not come until the middle of 2003, Rousu said.