With unemployment again edging down in September data, because of job growth over 248,000 and two prior months’ numbers upgraded from previous reports, the economy is on a pretty positive roll.
The stock market has been choppy recently, but not long ago, stocks were trading near record highs. Five years of erratic but nevertheless positive job growth is nothing to sneeze at.
And it’s almost Christmas. The holiday shopping season is the big retail event of the year.
The National Retail Federation said recently that it expects sales during the November and December period to be up 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, a percentage point higher than last year’s growth from 2012. That would be the highest increase since 2011.
Yet there is an undercurrent of concern among the experts: “It goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, told The Associated Press. “The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans.”
The nation is recovering nicely enough, now, from one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression. Even Louisiana, a relatively poor state, came out of the recession more quickly than many peers. However, as a relatively poor state, not only in economic output but educational attainment, our progress is going to be limited. There are already indications that despite industrial construction hiring beginning to be felt, the state’s economy may not be able to benefit as much as its healthier competitors in the South.
And if there are good signs, here as elsewhere in the United States, our export industries also need robust demand abroad. The International Monetary Fund slightly lowered its outlook for global economic growth this year and next, mostly because of weaker expansions in Japan, Latin America and Europe.
The IMF said the global economy will grow 3.3 percent this year, one-tenth of a point below what it forecast in July. World growth should then pick up to 3.8 percent in 2015, two-tenths of a point lower than its previous estimate, the IMF said in the latest installment of its World Economic Outlook.
U.S. growth should be higher, but as Shay pointed out, the customer may not necessarily be as free with his wallet. Job growth is terrific news, but wage growth is more limited.
That is drawing the ire of liberal commentators, who all too often hint darkly at raises being withheld by the nefarious ownership class. In fact, business owners see a market in which competition is sharper than ever, with Internet sales and new business entrants in just about every niche.
The price increases that might have been easier even a dozen years ago now are weighed carefully against the prospect of competition; wage increases are more likely to come in a very tight labor market, but we’re probably not there yet — despite the good news lately.