Econbrowser's James Hamilton observes that until this year the five-year rise in oil prices did not compare with the great oil shocks of 1973 and in 1979 for three reasons. 1) The rise was gradual. 2) Adjusted for inflation, the price of oil hadn't reached previous heights. 3) Energy costs made up a smaller relative portion of consumer budgets.
None of these things are true anymore. As Hamilton is wont to do, he illustrates these points with lots of nice charts.
His gloomy finish:
We dodged a recession (at least through most of 2007) despite a dramatic housing downturn. The modern American economy could perhaps also continue to grow through the kind of effects we saw from the oil price spike of 1990. But what if we have to deal with both sets of problems at the same time?
I'm afraid we're about to find out.
As if on cue, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning that the unemployment rate jumped from 5 to 5.5 percent, the "sharpest one-month increase in 22 years," according to the Wall Street Journal.