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March 2, 2014

Evan Soltas asks, "Is the labor market getting tight?"

He claims that the rising rate of workers quitting their jobs could show that the labor market is getting tighter. Workers quitting their jobs at a higher rate is taken as an expression of confidence. As Joe Weisenthal argues, "When the economy is bad, workers don't quit their jobs." The quit rate shows that the relationship between unemployment rate and quit-rates has remained steady, suggesting that it's the headline unemployment rate — which has now fallen to 6.6 percent — that best captures the state of the workforce.

Of course, what the rate of quits tells us is the rate of quits. People quit their jobs for all sorts of reasons, and even though the rate of quits is tightly correlated against unemployment, reading the rate of quits as a proxy for the tightness of the labor market is a risky extrapolation, and overlooks the bigger picture.

To assess the tightness of the labor market, we need a concept of the natural rate of unemployment. There is lots of argument over what we should mean by the "natural rate of unemployment," but the most popular definition is from Milton Friedman and Edmund Phelps, who defined it as the rate of unemployment consistent with output being at the "long-run" level. And what's very clear is that output is still in a big slump after 2008, way below its long-run trend:

[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

So even if we assume that the headline unemployment rate is the best measurement of tightness in the labor market, 6.6 percent (which translates to millions of people who want a job but can't find one) is still very slack because the economy is way below potential. John Aziz

9:33 a.m. ET

There was a time when Marco Rubio didn't work hard hide his hatred of being a U.S. senator, although "I don't know that 'hate' is the right word," he told The Washington Post last October. "I'm frustrated."

Oh, but how times have changed. For one, Rubio has dropped out of the presidential race. He is spending more time fishing and on his boat in Florida. He has decided against running for reelection, or for governor, or for really anything else before 2020.

Oh, and he kind of loves his job.

"Since I'm not running for reelection, there's a lot of things I want to get done. I'm actually enjoying it very much. It's kind of been the most enjoyable and productive I’ve been," Rubio told Politico.

While Rubio has stayed out of the spotlight in recent weeks by avoiding the garbage fire that is the current Republican race, he has been quietly getting work done on the Senate floor, including urging aid for Puerto Rico and breaking with party lines to back President Obama's call for $1.9 billion in federal funding to fight the Zika epidemic. Politico reports Rubio is also working to limit some U.S. benefits for Cuban immigrants as well as taken on a bigger role in protecting the Everglades.

"I feel positive about being able to get good results down the stretch. None of them are the kind of things that will dominate headlines. I'm honored to serve in the Senate. I've enjoyed my work there, despite the lack of progress in the process," Rubio said. Jeva Lange

9:20 a.m. ET

So, Donald Trump is probably going to be the Republican Party nominee for president. If that fact has you seriously Googling Canada's visa process, you might be onto something — there's some pretty cool stuff going on up in the Great White North. Last night, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry forced overtime in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat with this ridiculous half-court heave:

Of course, the Raptors went cold in OT and lost to the Heat, at home, 102-96. But hey, you're heading to Canada now — you can't be rude to your guests. The Raptors will try, though, when they host the Heat again at the Air Canada Centre for Game 2 on Thursday. Kimberly Alters

8:43 a.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump says he plans to tap a politician to serve as his vice president. "Somebody that can help me with legislation and somebody that can help me get things passed and somebody that's been friends with the senators and congressmen and all so we don’t have to go the executive order route as much as Obama did, you know, where he can't get anything approved so he just keeps signing executive orders," Trump said in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe Wednesday morning, the day after he all but sealed the GOP nomination with his win in the Indiana primary.

But Trump isn't ready to name names. "Well, it's too soon. I just don't want to do it," Trump said. "I think that, you know, a lot of people are talking about certain names, and certainly those are the names we are thinking of." The five potential running mates The Washington Post and others have floated recently are Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Watch Trump's full interview below, with his vice presidential remarks starting at the 16:05 mark. Becca Stanek

8:23 a.m. ET

When saying goodbye to Ted Cruz's presidential aspirations last night, the nation was also unwittingly bidding adieu to a young president. With the 45-year-old out of the race, electing any of the remaining candidates will be putting the oldest (or nearly the oldest) president ever into office:

It might be pointed out that John Kasich, who is still in the race, is a relative picture of youth at 63. However, his odds of assuming office are not good. Jeva Lange

8:16 a.m. ET
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

What happened in Paris and Brussels could possibly happen in the U.S., Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted in an exclusive interview with CNN, published Wednesday. "They do have that capacity," Clapper said of ISIS. "That's something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels." The March attacks in Brussels on a train and at an airport left at least 32 dead and 300 injured; the November attacks in Paris killed at least 130.

However, Obama pointed out, "We, here in the United States, face less of a threat than Europe" from ISIS. Still, he says, "the Paris-style attack, the Brussels style attack is the challenge that we're going to continue to face." Becca Stanek

8:14 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Shortly after Donald Trump all but clinched the GOP nomination with his victory in the Indiana primary Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unleashed a full line of attacks. Warren hit Trump on everything from his "racism, sexism, and xenophobia" to his "nonsensical national security ideas" before vowing to fight tooth and nail to make sure that Trump never reaches the Oval Office. Becca Stanek

7:52 a.m. ET
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The legendary musician Prince was trying to meet with a doctor about a painkiller addiction the day before he died, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Representatives of Prince reached out to Dr. Howard Kornfeld on the night of April 20 and told him Prince was "dealing with a grave medical emergency."

While Howard Kornfeld could not clear his schedule to fly out the next day, he sent his son, Andrew Kornfeld, ahead of him and planned to follow later. When Andrew Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Prince's representatives were unable to locate Prince. Andrew Kornfeld was one of three people who discovered the musician unconscious in an elevator, and it was Andrew who placed the 911 call.

Painkillers were also discovered at the scene — investigators are actively working to learn how Prince got the pills, and who provided them.

Sources said it was hoped Prince would agree to travel to California for round-the-clock support at Kornfeld's renowned clinic, the Star Tribune reports. Six days before his death, Prince's plane made an emergency landing; those with direct knowledge of the situation said the landing occurred because Prince was overdosing on opioids. Jeva Lange

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