I am truly fed up with "analysts" who claim that the economy is "fine" - "just a spot of trouble in the housing sector"... "job creation is strong"... "personal spending is holding up"... yack, yack, yack. Well, you be the judge.
Here is a chart (click to enlarge) showing the correlation between new housing completions (red line) and job creation (blue line). Notice the extremely tight relationship, right up to 2001. What happened then? In response to the dotcom collapse and the 9/11 events, the Fed panicked and cut rates to near zero (real rates went way negative), thus creating the artificial real estate super-bubble which "goosed" the economy (Fed Funds rates are shown in green - no scale).
The housing market has now fallen off the cliff, employment growth is rolling over and this time the Fed has painted itself in a corner. Rates are lower than at any previous cycle peak (i.e. it does not have as much room to cut), household debt is enormous and Americans are spending more than they earn; borrowing even more is simply not possible, even if it were desirable. Furthermore, 2.3 billion Chinese and Indian consumers with newly found money in their wallets means that cost inflation is already a very serious threat. And last, but certainly not least, the dollar as global reserve currency has credible competition for the first time since WWII - the euro.