GM layoffs and plant shutdowns suggest U.S. economy may be starting to slow

GM’s announcement sounded an incongruous note amid otherwise plentiful signs of U.S. economic health. The last six months have produced the economy’s best back-to-back quarters in four years. The unemployment rate is near a half-century low. And corporate profits are exceeding expectations.

Yet the automaker’s overhaul is a reminder that the economic expansion, which began in June 2009, already is the second-longest since modern records began in 1854. Few economists anticipate a recession anytime soon, but the annualized rate of auto sales has fallen by 1 million vehicles since September 2017, and data on retail sales, industrial production and housing all suggest that the economy is tiring.

“We’d be very surprised to see output growth picking up further from here; all the manufacturing cyclical indicators we follow have peaked, and some are declining,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a recent research note.

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