During Thanksgiving, my girlfriend forces people around the table to discuss one-by-one the reasons why they should be thankful this year. You usually run the gamut of the funny – “I’m thankful the Giants are not as bad as the Jets this year”; the cheesy – “I’m just thankful to have you in my life, baby”; and the downright serious – “I’m just thankful we made it through this year and that everyone is here at this table as a family.”
There are many reasons to be thankful during the holidays, but when it comes to the economy, many are just happy to have made it through the year alive. However, if you look closer, there are reasons why the economy has given us reasons to hold on to hope and be a little more thankful than we were the year before. Here are some…
1. Unemployment is getting better – Take a look at the numbers. In November 2009, we were faced with a 10% unemployment rate. Last year, we expressed how thankful we were that the number dropped to 9.6% in 2010. This year, we saw another drop. As of this writing, the unemployment rate is at 9%. We’d love it to be higher, but the fact that it continues to lower year by year gives us hope that things will continue to get better. With holiday jobs being scooped up in October and November, it’s highly conceivable that the number will continue to get better as we head into 2012. We should see a slight increase again at the beginning of the year, but if the trend continues, we should see another drop by this time next year. The numbers are not staggering, but Tiny Tim would tell us that we should be thankful for what we have and the fact that people are finding work again is a good thing. While movement is slow, this is certainly a trend heading in the right direction.
2. Voices are being heard – Occupy Wall Street might be considered a dud now that it appears Mayor Bloomberg has silenced the once boisterous crowd at Zuccotti Park. Kicked out of their stomping grounds and with nowhere to really go, the group might appear to be defeated, but that might not entirely be the case. According to a recent article on CNN Money, the group has collected almost $600,000 in tax-deductible donations since it began accepting them in late September. OWS finance group member Pete Dutro stated that the protest group still holds $455,000 in its bank account. No longer needed to support a formal encampment, the money could be used to bankroll fresh new ideas. This could include political contributions aimed at combating those forces that the 99% feel are not looking out for their needs. Either way, with the big election season already picking up steam and the country less than a year away from choosing between President Obama and a new candidate, don’t think those voices will be silenced for too long. The disenfranchised people will have their say next election day.
3. People are spending money again – According to the Commerce Department, retail sales have grown for the 5th straight month. October saw a rise in retail spending by 0.5%. That seems low, but we should see greater growth in November and December as even the thriftiest of people purchase gifts for their loved ones. Macy’s has publicly stated that they will have a “spectacular Christmas.” Expect the same for companies like Best Buy and Toys R Us. As a result of this unexpected increase in spending consumers, business inventories have fallen to near record lows. Companies need to replenish their inventory to meet the demand, therefore boosting the economy. As long as companies continue to provide consumers with a reason to part with their hard-earned cash, there will be chain-reaction eventually resulting in an increase of jobs.
4. Increased factory output – Factory output in New York State grew in November for the first time since last May. The more orders are needed to be filled, the more people needed to get the job done.
5. Interest rates are low – Now is the time, whether you have a mortgage, an auto-loan or a personal loan, to refinance your loan, because interest rates are very low. The refinancing will lead to lower costs, therefore putting more money in your pockets that will enable you to buy more goods. And as No. 3 points out, giving consumer more money to buy things helps boost the economy.
6. Economic growth is expected to improve – According to a recent article in USA Today, top forecasters with the National Association for Business Economics predicted the economy would grow 2.4% in 2012. This is a low number and only a slight improvement from the 1.8% growth they expect for all of 2011, but in an economy where everything seemed to be bottoming out, any growth at all is a good thing. It takes baby steps before we can start walking and running and the same can be said for the economy. A slow growth tomorrow will lead to more significant growth in the future. When growth happens too fast, well, we all know what happens next. Slow and steady wins the race.
--Jon Minners, Vault.com