U.S. household net worth fell 3% to $56 trillion at the end of March, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve's flow of funds report, CNNMoney.com reported, with the amount of home equity declining to 46.2% - - the lowest on record.
Economist Peter Dawson told BloggingStocks Friday the net worth and home equity statistics aren't surprising, given the U.S. economy's current fundamentals. Further, he said the economy is now approaching "the danger level" regarding several key economic metrics.
Trends moving in wrong direction
"The two biggest concerns for the economy right now are a lack of job growth across the spectrum and stagnant wages for segments of the American workforce. A lack of job growth and wage increases will put the U.S. economy in a very serious state, and not just with home values, if the current trends do not reverse," Dawson said.
Moreover, Dawson said he's less concerned about home equity and overall home values, because "a home is a derivative asset, really a function of job growth, wage gains, and rising real incomes."
"The key remains job growth, and the ability of all employees to secure the wage gains that are essential to a growing economy. Some have argued that the U.S. economy could compensate for a lack of consumption at home by simply selling more goods to consumers abroad, but this is a deeply flawed model," Dawson said. "Absent consumption at home, the U.S. economy will fall into a prolonged recession, and the key to consumption is job growth and wage increases. Without job growth and wage increases the United States will simply run out of consumers. You'll be a condition where there are plenty of goods in the stores but there will not be nearly enough consumers to buy them. That's a place the nation doesn't want to be in."
Dawson said that, in addition to a demand increase from a cyclical rise in the economy, structural changes will have to occur in the U.S. economy to reverse the aforementioned trends - - including, among other changes, investments in secondary, vocational and higher education and job re-training, major changes to the tax code that benefit lower-income-groups, and tax incentives to encourage investment and "a more-balanced economy, with an expanding pool of consumers, not a contracting one."
However, Dawson acknowledged that each of the above is a major policy initiative / change that's not likely to occur until after the November 2008 U.S. Presidential and Congressional elections.