It’s so good to see “Now Hiring” signs in the windows and lobbies of so many businesses in the area lately.
Like robins in spring, those signs are a good omen that a springtime of economic recovery is arriving in this area, this state, this country.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s disappointing, of course, because the “normal” unemployment rate is considered to be about 4 percent in non-recessionary times. In Minnesota, we’re doing better than the national average, with the unemployment rate under 5 percent.
This has been the slowest recovery in history, according to economic experts. It’s not surprising, considering the depths of the 2008 economic catastrophe, when the entire banking system, weakened by reckless speculations, unethical chicanery and corrupt practices, hovered at the edge of a cliff. Once again, we the taxpayers had to come to the rescue when it was decided the banks were “too big to fail.”
The good economic news – at least as regards employment data – has slowly but surely improved. In the past six months, hiring has increased – to the tune of 200,000 or more hires each month. In May, that number was 217,000, more than expected by economic forecasters.
Since February 2010, nearly 9 million jobs were added in the nation. However, the down side is many high school and college graduates and others who recently entered the work force are still seeking jobs that don’t seem to be there.
The down news is the population of work-age people increased, and there is more evidence many people, discouraged at not finding a job, have dropped out of the work force and are probably depending upon friends or family.
So what we have in the economic picture is a kind of teeter-totter of good news/bad news. For example, the four-week average for new unemployment claims in the past few months is 310,250. That’s the lowest level in six years, says the Labor Department, but, all the same, that’s way too many people out of work.
The good news is the stock market continues to do well and 401k investments are earning money; the bad news is Wall Street successes outpace Main Street successes and money at the top is generally not being reinvested in ways that create jobs on the lower rungs. In other words, the ol’ vaunted “trickle-down” theory, so heralded in the 1980s, is not working. Money is not circulating and re-circulating the way it should be. Economists argue fiercely about the causes of that, but whatever the cause, it’s a major ongoing problem if this country wants to maintain and grow its vital middle class.
We can resign ourselves, with some satisfaction, to the fact the good news in recent months is better than expected and the bad news is not as bad as we’d feared.
In the meantime, let’s keep our fingers crossed.
It’s time for some guarded optimism. Yes, indeed, there is hope rising after so many bleak economic seasons. It’s like watching the sun rise and flowers blooming after enduring a long, miserable winter.