IT IS rare that a disruptive young politician grabs attention in France. Political careers tend to be built up after decades of party hacking and parliamentary manoeuvring. But the decision on April 6th by Emmanuel Macron, the economy minister, to launch a new cross-party political movement in an effort to get France moving has created an unusual buzz--and prompted much speculation about the minister's own political ambitions.

At a town-hall meeting in Amiens, in the Somme, where he was born, Mr Macron unveiled the movement he has named "En marche!" or "On the move!". It was not a party, he said, but a political grouping "neither on the right nor the left", with the aim of trying to build cross-party consensus in order to "unblock France". The country was suffering, he said, from "le mal fran├žais": a lack of confidence in itself, and a fear of change and of opening up to the world. The French needed to start believing in themselves, he urged, and stop worrying about failure and preserving old privileges, if they were to seize the opportunities and adapt to the new, increasingly digital economy.

The ongoing collapse of the velocity of M2 money supply screams loud on clear: YES. As the St. Louis Fed pointed out yesterday, M2 money velocity--the ratio of nominal GDP to the average of the money stock--has fallen to record lows, based on numbers dating to 1959. That's a powerful sign that the crowd has a strong--and still growing-appetite for safe-haven liquidity. Therein lies Exhibit A for explaining why the post-2008 economic recovery has been unsatisfying.

"In general, the velocity of money starts to increase after a recession is over, when confidence is restored," the St. Louis Fed explained in a blog post on Thursday. "However, since 2007, the velocity of money in the US has been decreasing, which means consumers and firms are still holding onto cash instead of spending it. This behavior, which also reflects a decrease in inflation, suggests that confidence in the recovery is still low. When confidence is restored, we should expect to see a rebound in the velocity of money."

Click to enlarge

Based on the chart above, however, a rebound that boosts confidence is nowhere on the horizon.

If this sounds familiar, well, it is. An unhealthy craving for safety was a concern in 2011, for instance, when I asked: "Are We Facing Another Troubling Rise In Money Demand?" The numbers suggested the answer was "yes" at the time and nothing much has changed five years on. In fact, you can argue that conditions are deteriorating via the chart above. Granted, the economy is expanding, but in fits and starts. Meantime, stock prices are higher but Treasury yields are lower and perhaps set to fall even more.

Economist David Beckworth this week commented that "the safe-asset shortage problem is back. Actually, it never went away but drifted into the background as the symptoms of this problem-sluggish growth and low interest rates-became the norm."

Getting that old sinking feeling again? Youre not alone.

The US economy barely stayed afloat in the first three months of the year, data show, the third year in a row that growth has faltered in the first quarter. Forecasters are duly chopping their growth estimates for the period, casting doubt on the economys underlying strength.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Friday lowered its estimate for gross domestic product between January and March to 0.1 percent (see chart below). Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts peg growth for the quarter at 0.2 percent. Macroeconomic Advisers puts it at 0.7 percent. Capital Economics, normally fairly chipper on the countrys economic prospects, forecasts annualized GDP in the first quarter of 1 percent.

The main drags on growth include slower personal consumption, decreasing wholesale inventories, a widening trade deficit and the ongoing hit to the energy sector from low oil prices.

Following on from the 1.4 percent gain in the final quarter of last year, that suggests the US economy lost more momentum and could be headed for a full-blown downturn, said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist with the research firm, in a note.

Canadas economy cranked out an impressive 41,000 jobs last month, more than four times what economists were expecting.

Statistics Canadas Labour Force Survey showed there were more people employed in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. At the same time, employment declined in Prince Edward Island and was little changed in the other provinces.

Alberta added almost 19,000 jobs during the month, a reversal of a recent trend, and enough to drag the jobless rate down eight points to the national average again. The province still, however, has fewer people employed today than it did a year ago, by about 1.5 per cent.

Thats much better than Albertas job market did in past recessions, University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe said in an interview Friday

Overall Alberta is faring quite a bit better than we did in past recessions, he said.The impression that the sky is falling ust doesnt work.

By sector, health care was a real winner, with 25,000 new jobs. Manufacturing, which has been showing some encouraging economic signs in recent months, lost32,000 positions.

This sector had been a rare bright spot until March, and raises some doubts on just how much this sector is truly turning around, BMO economist Doug Porter noted.

The natural resources sector, which includes mining, oil and gas, lost about 2,100 jobs.

Economists polled by Bloomberg had been expecting the Canadian economy to addabout 10,000 jobs in March. The surprise good news pushed the Canadiandollar up above the 77 cents level at one point, up by almost a cent on the day.

The strong showing was enough to pull the unemployment rate down by 0.2 percentage points to 7.1 per cent.

The composition of the increase was also extremely encouraging,CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said. Most of the increase was drivenby full-time positions, up 35,000.

All in all, most watchers said it was an encouraging sign for the economy that needed some good news.

It gives us a picture of a job market that I think overall is pretty healthy given the current circumstances, said Desjardins senior economist Jimmy Jean.

Considering the significant economic challenges faced by the commodity sector, Jean was encouraged that the March report boosted Canadas six-month average for monthly job gains to about 11,000. He said that, on average, the job market adds 16,000 positions per month under more normal economic conditions.

However, there is no guarantee the strong start to 2016 will continue in the coming months, especially if oil prices stay low, he said.

The outlook is still fragile.