The month the U.S. economy died

More bad numbers emerge detailing October's meltdown. Investors respond: The Dow goes into free fall.

Published December 1, 2008 4:45PM (EST)

October continues to solidify its reputation as the month the U.S. economy dropped dead in its tracks. On Monday, the Commerce Department reported that construction spending declined by 1.2 percent in October. (The Associated Press describes the drop as "larger-than-expected" -- a formulation that is beginning to sound a little silly when applied to economic data from October.)

Let's see, what else happened in October? Manufacturing activity fell to a 26-year low, sales of new homes dropped by 5.3 percent, sales of existing homes dropped by 3.1 percent, residential housing construction fell by 3.5 percent, and non-residential construction dropped by .7 percent. Moral of the story? The housing sector has yet to reach rock-bottom.

And in an entirely related piece of news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 377 points by 11:45 EST. Call it "rational non-exuberance." The more data we get, the more clear it is just how far off the rails the U.S. economy went in October.

From the AP:

[Economists] believe the country has slipped into what could be the worst recession since the 1981-82 downturn. The current economic slump is being worsened by the most serious financial crisis to hit the country since the 1930s as banks struggle to deal with billions of dollars of loan losses, beginning with troubles with mortgage debt that reflect a record level of foreclosures.

There was some kerfuffle in the econo-blogosphere last week over whether Barack Obama had appointed too many economists as advisors. Personally, I think the new president is going to need every last one of them.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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