Given all the conflicting economic signals (economy building strength, but without building many jobs), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Let’s just say that politicians looking for signs that conditions are improving – or politicians looking for signs of trouble – should both be able to find what they are looking for.
Nearly a third of this week’s respondents said things are looking better than they did a year ago, and a nearly equal 31% said things are actually looking “good.” Among readers in the former camp was this response, “Last year we were asking questions like, ‘Do we need this position filled now?’ Positions that were not filled last year are being filled now. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Roughly 18% said it was about the same as a year ago – and for about a third of that group, the same as a year ago was good, another third said it wasn’t so good, and the rest weren’t specific.
Still, nearly 10% said things were worse, about 6% said it was “a lot worse” (about 3% said “who knows,” or “something else”).
What to make of all this? Where you are – and what industry you are in – does make a difference. Here’s a sampling of responses:
- “We (small town in) are ‘B’ – better. But, we are mixed. Our largest employer recently signed 2 large contracts and has hired back about 200 laid off employees. Two weeks ago another plant announced it is closing – laying off (permanently) about 180.”
- “Yesterday my answer would have been (b): better than a year ago….but, yesterday our ‘Illustrious’ Governor Robert Erlich, of, signed a bunch of bills that will increase our assorted taxes tremendously!”
- “(d) Worse than a year ago. Gas costs $1.69 a gallon ( Dallas, Texas, ) and unemployment is running rampant (I don’t trust the numbers in the media – I know people who no longer collect and are still out of work – they aren’t included in the numbers).”
- “At work, a lot worse than ever and I’ve been here for 17 years ( southern). The CFO is asking every department to cut their budgets by 15%, and with that, lay offs are coming. We haven’t received raises for 2 years, and have been told to expect the same for the next 2 – 3 years.”
- “InNortheastern Pennsylvania , we have been experiencing a boom in terms of new businesses and new home construction. I listen to the media about how bad off we are, but yet when I go into any one of the 12 new restaurants or 20 new stores (all built within the last 12 months), they are all crowded and people are spending money. Maybe the media personnel need to get out more!”
- “(e) A lot worse than one year ago. Continuing large scale layoffs in the paper industry, small retail, and the utility sector with no local or even statewide jobs to replace those that are lost. Unfortunately, this ( ) is a high tax state to live in or to do business in.”
- “I am in the,,area. Where I live and where I work the economy is booming. Since last fall our business has been great (it wasn’t bad before that). We sell our products world-wide and the demand seems to have picked up everywhere”.
- “In response to the survey, things are looking (a) good, where I live and work–which happens to be,.”
- “All the news articles talk about it being/getting better but the people I know who were unemployed last year are still looking for work and finding only temporary work if they find anything. More job cuts are coming to the area and state and even the State Government ( North Carolina ) has sent jobs to .”
- “B. I live and work in thearea. A pretty good sign on how the economy is performing can be traced to the tourism numbers to the various theme parks. The numbers are up, the parks have mandatory overtime in place for a number of positions and are hiring. All in all, a pretty good sign more people are working and feeling more secure regarding the job market and economy in general.”
- “Things look better here now than one year ago ( , ).”
- “I live in theand with some commodity prices up, grain and beef, I’d have to vote (b). God bless the farmers.”
- “I would have to say D. I’m not sure where they’re getting vibes about the positive economic indicators but they’re certainly not here in the Northeast. For a while, not a week went by where I didn’t hear about someone else getting laid off or that someone has been out of work for 8 months to 1 year ( Boston ).”
- “Here in, things are looking better than they did a year ago. Employment levels are high, the economy is rebounding, and real estate is booming.”
- “The economy is strongly on the mend in the East Bay ( S F Bay Area) with jobs up, housing prices having stabilized and again reaching up, and an extreme (10 year low) of houses on the market (I.e. a housing shortage).”
- “The job market inNew York is still the pits.”
- “Job prospects in Washington State are absolutely dismal.”
- “The economy in,, seems to be about the same as it was this time last year, which is rather poor.”
Readers offered a number of alternative economic barometers, including the number of calls from headhunters, the difficulty in hiring replacements, parking at the malls, and waiting times in restaurants, to name a few.
One reader noted the following metric: “I use my personal economic indicator, my eoe log. ByApril 1, 2003 …… I had 181 walk-ins, wondering if we had any openings. By April 1, 2004 , I have had 68 walk-ins wondering if we had any openings.”
But this week’s Editor’s Choice said, “Put us down for ‘b’ — better than a year ago. But ask again in 6 months. Maybe I’ll know for sure.”
Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!
(b) -- We are hiring. Last year we were asking questions like "Do we need this position filled now?" Positions that were not filled last year are being filled now. It's a wonderful thing.
Things appear worse. Many neighbors have lost their jobs and have put their houses up for sale. I wonder how many of these jobs are minimum wage at Wal-Mart and McDonalds?
We (small town in - population 15,000) are "B" - better.
But, we are mixed. Our largest employer recently signed 2 large contracts and have hired back about 200 laid off employees. Two weeks ago another plant (the oldest one in town - makes women's hosiery) announced it is closing - laying off (permanently) about 180.
I'm going to have to go with f, who knows.
The newspapers speak of "gloom and doom" but from the traffic at the malls, on the streets, etc., people are spending money; so they must have made it somewhere (unless they love credit cards ....!)
In response to the survey, things are looking (a) good, where I live and work--which happens to be , . This is, for the most part, unchanged from the past year. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.
In general, I would say (c) about the same as a year ago. That is unless you are referring to gas prices in this area--then I would say all of the above, it just depends on what time of the day it is and what day of the week.
Generally, things are good now, but I'm concerned about where we'll be in a year or two as a result of budget and trade deficits. Another danger that could occur very soon as interest rates rise is the housing value bubble bursting; there's been quite a run up in the value of real estate with interest rates being as low as they are, and people have borrowed a lot against their apparent equity. If the home prices take a dive and consumers are feeling poorer, they'll cut their spending, resulting in very bad news for the economy.
I would have to say "C", about the same as a year ago. We have not been hit too hard with layoffs, however surrounding counties in our area have been hit with textile layoffs (Pillowtex-over 8000 lost their jobs last year due to company bankruptcy) and furniture manufacture layoffs. I don't see a huge improvement in our local economy over last year. Somehow, retail continues to be strong, and the local housing market appears to be strong, new houses...expensive houses, are going up everywhere. But overall I would say "C".
I live in , and the economic climate hasn't been good for awhile. First, can't seem to bring in new business due to the level of difficulty of setting up or expanding a business in Western New York. People are leaving in droves because of this.
I also believe the economic situation in has deteriorated since the Rigas', the owners of Adelphi Cable and the Sabres, fleeced the economy and reneged their commitment to build up the last, or so I believe, undeveloped lake waterfront property in the country.
Business is beginning to turn around in with Geico setting up their corporate headquarters and a few other small companies setting up business in the area. Although this is all good news, it is still outweighed by the number of jobs lost in the area as well as the number of people leaving the area.
I could go on but I have to get back to work.
My response to the survey is (a) looking good. Several companies in our area are hiring but somehow the media continues to paint a 'doom and gloom' picture. In fact, the company I work for has recalled all laid off employees (approx. 250) and is in the hiring mode (up to 50 more). As much as anything, I think the media is trying their best to influence the presidential election. Most people tend to think the person in office at the current time has caused the current economic growth or decline, forgetting that it can take a few (or several) years for changes to impact the economy.
Sorry about the soapbox! I very much enjoy reading NewsDash and have gleaned much useful information from it. Thank you for providing this service!
I have also noticed that the media is not on the same page regarding the economic recovery as the leading indicators and reports reflect.
In Northeastern Pennsylvania, we have been experiencing a boom in terms of new businesses and new home construction. I listen to the media about how bad off we are, but yet when I go into any one of the 12 new restaurants or 20 new stores (all built within the last 12 months) they are all crowded and people are spending money. Maybe the media personnel need to get out more!
Our largest local employer is the military ( ). Despite continued massive deployments we have had a strong first quarter, the best since before September 11, 2001 and 7% better than last year.
(e) A lot worse than one year ago. Continuing large scale layoffs in the paper industry, small retail, and the utility sector with no local or even statewide jobs to replace those that are lost. Unfortunately, this () is a high tax state to live in or to do business in.
things don't look good in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Underemployment is high. Prices are high. Store fronts are empty. People are dying in a war we didn't want. And the really expensive costs haven't even hit yet.
I am in the , area. Where I live and where I work the economy is booming. Since last fall our business has been great (it wasn't bad before that). We sell our products world-wide and the demand seems to have picked up everywhere.
I have a hard time understanding the yo-yo nature of the stock market since the first of the year. It seems that every time there is really good news, the market falls because "somewhere" maybe in the DISTANT future "sometime" the interest rates "might" go up a month earlier than we have been "guessing". In reality I don't believe the official "market watchers" have any idea on the ups and downs in a volatile market and they all feel obligated to say something whether it makes sense or not, or they might lose their "expert" status. Of course, the media picks it up because they have to report the "news", and all this ignorance just contributes to the volatility.
Thanks for listening.
(g) Something else. All the news articles talk about it being/getting better but the people I know who were unemployed last year are still looking for work and finding only temporary work if they find anything. More job cuts are coming to the area and state and even the State Government (North Carolina) has sent jobs to .
From where I live and work, the economy looks about the same as a year ago - with maybe a slight improvement.
b, I live and work in the area. A pretty good sign on how the economy is performing can be traced to the tourism numbers to the various theme parks. The numbers are up, the parks have mandatory overtime in place for a number of positions and are hiring. All in all a pretty good sign more people are working and feeling more secure regarding the job market and economy in general.
My view on the economy hasn't changed over the years. If you haven't lost your job or moved to a lesser paying job the economy is fine (Kansas City). We've all been out and about. When I go to Lowe's or Home Depot, it's packed. Have you spent anytime at the mall lately! The only affect the economy has had on most is added extra worry. People tend to spend time dwelling on the negative "might happens" of life. It appears to me that only a small percentage carries that worry over into a conservative buying process. Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, hell even Krispy Kremes are everywhere these days and doing well.
Price of gasoline is the latest economical complaint. Has anyone started driving less? Driving more economical cars? Take a look. It's SUV city out there!
Be thankful for what you have, go out and enjoy life
About the same in the city (, ) and a somewhat worse in the rural areas.
I haven't really seen a change in the economic environment (), however, there's an often repeated story form our clients that's worth passing on. There's been an extraordinary run-up in raw materials prices. Suppliers are demanding higher prices than those that had been quoted to contractors who have bid jobs based on those quotes. Everyone is getting squeezed. We even heard a story of a steel supplier refusing to deliver on a futures (hedging) contract at the contract price. Wholesale manufacturers are more concerned with supply than cost. Given the high cost of fuel, this double whammy is going to lead to inflation sooner than later and the Fed may not be able to do anything about it. We've heard that one of the leading causes is the booming Chinese economy. Not much the Fed can to slow them down.
In answer to your survey: In the county where I live, I thought things were pretty bad considering all the plant closings in the immediate area. But the other day I passed by the local Wal-Mart and judging from the heavy traffic and parking.......we must be doing pretty darn good!
Things look better here now than one year ago (, ).
a) Things are looking good for three members of my immediate family. In the last 3 weeks, all three have new job opportunities with increased pay. These are all 30 year olds. I wonder if the situation is the same for those of us over 50 and graying?
Answer b) to the Survey - better than 1 yr ago. "What's my barometer? - I am once again receiving regular calls from Exec. Recruiters for various new jobs being created in the financial services sector, as well as for currently existing jobs which are replacing someone who left for greener pastures. In the 12-18 months immediately following 9/11, there were very few calls from Exec. Recruiters (this is a consensus from numerous other folks as well.........) Thanks!
I think the economy looks a little better in my corner of the world than a year ago. People are spending money, new bigger, more expensive houses are going up faster than believable in my neighborhood and they're selling like hotcakes, our unemployment rate is lower than the national average. Our company gave the same size raises as a year ago in March, however. Being in the construction industry, we typically lag behind the economy somewhat.
I live in the and with some commodity prices up, grain and beef, I'd have to vote (b). God bless the farmers.
Here in the Northern part of Joisey, I find that many white collar professionals are treading water and several friends have confided that they are worried about lay-offs. But I wanted to stress two trends that are very clear:
All trades relating to household maintenance and contracting, such as landscaping, plumbing, electrical, cosmetic decorating, carpentry, etc. - are doing very well, with most competitors very busy and commanding uniformly high labor rates. There's plenty of work to go around and I'm starting to wonder if the public schools are doing enough to train students for this important and profitable segment of the economy.
The second trend I see is that small-scale retailing is depressed and in the 5 or 6 local downtowns that I drive through, there are constantly stores going out of business. The replacements tend to be food stores or personal services businesses, but mom/pop stores that sell "stuff" can't compete against the giant competitors.
(c) "about the same". Interesting locally, though, the large city has a lot of negatives....large budget deficit, lost jobs, union strife. But suburbs are good, city and suburban real estate is good, and most local consumer measurements are favorable.
I would have to say D. I'm not sure where they're getting vibes about the positive economic indicators but they're certainly not here in the Northeast. For a while, not a week went by where I didn't hear about someone else getting laid off or that someone has been out of work for 8 months to 1 year. Last summer, the teenagers in my neighborhood couldn't find jobs even at the local grocery store. I don't live in a depressed area. As a matter of fact, I'm in Suburban Boston in one of the fastest growing areas in . I'm not seeing it.
My husband owns a retail establishment and he is not doing very well. They have had to make adjustments. "Things are just slow right now" he'll tell me. People are not spending. People are being very cautious as are corporations.
For the economic indicators, I'm not sure where they are getting their information. They don't measure all the people whose unemployment benefits have run out or those people who are now working for 1/2 what they were making just to get insurance for their families. We just hired someone in that situation where her husband has been out of work for 8 months and is now working temp assignments for $10/hr just to generate some income.
Not improving here.......
Here in , things are looking better than they did a year ago. Employment levels are high, the economy is rebounding and real estate is booming. Now if only our General Assembly could agree on a budget compromise and get to work...
C) about the same as a year ago (still no real job prospects for my spouse)
Things definitely look better than they did a year ago. We all still have jobs!!!!!!!
(d) worse than a year ago
We've had a couple businesses shut down operations and others lay off workers. It's been a very difficult time for our community.
I agree with this reader's analysis of information that is purged into the public on a daily basis via news media. The liberal media understands this information is consumed and held by a majority of the public who only use this axis and make it easier to be out of touch with reality! "Most information regarding economic indicators and job stats, etc., I read in this publication and other benefits industry publications generally points toward positive economic conditions, yet everything in the media is negative...."
The economy is strongly on the mend in the East Bay (S F Bar Area) with jobs up, housing prices having stabilized and again reaching up and an extreme (10 year low) of houses on the market (I.e. a housing shortage). The combination of low interest rates and great investment optimism drives the market bolstered by a positive social outlook where hope springs eternal. "' enthusiasm has replaced the "Gray" pall. Yes, will make it if personal responsibility and rugged individualism can suppress the liberal socialist depression of dumbed down mediocrity. WE LIVE!!!
(c) About the same as last year.
The job market in New York is still the pits.
My employer has declared bankruptcy and I am out of work. I began looking for a job 8-9 months before and receive emails from Benefits Link and Monster every day. If employment available for a mid-level manager around the nation is any indication, then we are clearly worse off then we were last year. There seemed to be an upswing in November but since February there has been a marked decline in the number of Jobs advertised.
Job prospects in are absolutely dismal.
D) Until recently I thought that gas, utility, and cable expenses were, adjusted for inflation, at "reasonable levels" over the past 1, 3, and 5 year periods. WRONG! After some research I found that in my area of California that gas prices have increased 8%, annualized, the past 5 years, utility rates are up over 4% each year, and cable, yikes what a ream. The BLS methodology and/or data which produces the CPI is a crock!
My vote is C. I don't see things improving, but maybe they are in the 'lower job' category. They keep reporting things based on the number of unemployment claims, without taking into consideration the people who are now off of unemployment because their benefits have run out. My own husband has been out of work since 2002, and no longer has unemployment benefits, so he isn't being counted, but he doesn't have a job. I'm guessing there are a of people out there in the same boat....
It seems like a simple question but when it's broken down into the "me" component and the "corporate" component, the answers are opposites. Business is up and we are seeing more appearances at the plate (baseball metaphor). We're winning more and we've been able to fine tune the business model to tackle (football metaphor) the productivity challenge that management has dropped (hockey metaphor) on us. On the other hand, the increased pressure and additional commitment has taken a toll in fewer days off, longer hours and just plain more stress. Working to keep all the balls in the air (juggling? metaphor) has taken a toll but there seem to be limited other choices given the need to pay the bills and keep going out there.
In short, things are looking up (choice a) but the cost may take a toll later. Stay tuned.
In response to your survey, my answer is a) things are looking good. We just need to avoid electing someone who's going to muck it all up by raising taxes and having the government "fix" things for us.
I enjoy your survey responses.
Forget about what the media says. If they don't have (or create) bad news, they think there's no news at all. Things are much better than a year ago in our architectural business. That tells us our clients have expectations of a brighter future, so they're willing to commit large sums of money to long-term construction projects, which in turn creates or sustains jobs through the actual building process as well as in the future operations of their trade. What do you think that would tell "the media"? Probably something like: "Business owners are considering the imminent bleak futures of their companies. But some don't want to give up and are cautiously committing funds to their looming downfall." You know the drill.
The economy in , , seems to be about the same as it was this time last year, which is rather poor.
So far, "C"
I work in manufacturing, our bookings are much stronger than last year, so I would say, B. But we're moving some of our manufacturing to in Sept which will cause job loss here, so in that case F.
I vote A and C. I work in a town that is the county seat and state capital and has a big university. That means lots of government money so the economy is almost always good. People used to say its recession proof. I think they can still say that today.
Put us down for "b" -- better than a year ago. But ask again in 6 months. Maybe I'll know for sure.
My answer is B better than a year ago, although I expect that will give me some headaches with regard to turnover.
At work, a lot worse than ever and I've been here for 17 years. The CFO is asking every department to cut their budgets by 15%, and with that, lay offs are coming. We haven't received raises for 2 years, and have been told to expect the same for the next 2 - 3 years.
At home, the economy is booming. Every other house has been refinanced 3 times in the last 5 years, neighbors are adding on to their homes in square footage that exceeds the original home, and my neighbor and co-worker just sold their 2 bedroom 1 bath, 1000 square foot home, in a bidding war that topped out at $556,000! I'm sitting on a gold mine!
Things are good and getting better! As always there is the crape hanging the "glass is half empty" crowd and the Lope de Vega followers with their "wear their coffins as a crown" mindset. The trick is to not let the doom and gloom group infect your perspective.
You want a read on how things are going? You don't need fancy economic theories or measurements. Follow the KISS advice one of my finance professors gave me over 35 years ago. Look at a commercial intersection you pass every day. How are the businesses there doing? Been to an Appleby's lately? Empty? Not! I've taught my children this rule. They're amazed at how accurate an index something this simple is.
So good, improving or bad? The answer... stop by an Outback for dinner tonight and check out the wait time. Minimum 45 minutes. Things are going great and getting even better.
P.S., News Dash and Plan Sponsor are two of the best publications of their type. Keep up the great work.
Yesterday my answer would have been (b): better than a year ago....but, yesterday our 'Illustrious' Governor Robert Erlich, of MD, signed a bunch of bills that will increase our assorted taxes tremendously! Everything from Auto Registration (increasing 7.5%) to the new 'Flush' Tax (higher sewer rates)!
I guess things are getting worse!
At my work place, (b), we are hiring and expanding business. This is also the case with my husband's work place. However, for several members of my family who are electricians with the IBEW, it is (d) or perhaps (e). There is very little work and what is available is all short calls. It makes it really hard to balance a budget and pay all your bills when you are worrying about your sub-pay and unemployment running out. Especially when you call into the union hall and there aren't any jobs. I have to wonder just where Bush and his advisors are getting their info. But then again my family and I are not exactly the type to support Bush and his administration, so I guess we don't really count to him.
Have a great day,
House prices continue to increase (), I see lots of new cars and there is lots of new home construction and remodeling. All of this is probably tied to the low interest rates which might be an outcome from lower economic activity. The job market is definitely up; I sit near a recruiter who is having trouble finding people w/ certain skills.
(b) BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO.
WE ARE A SMALL COMPANY. I USE MY PERSONAL ECONOMIC INDICATOR, MY EOE LOG.
BY APRIL 1, 2003...... I HAD 181 WALK-INS, WONDERING IF WE HAD ANY OPENINGS.
BY APRIL 1, 2004 .......I HAVE HAD 68 WALK-INS WONDERING IF WE HAD ANY OPENINGS.
IT WORKS FOR ME. (AND MAKES MY LIFE A LOT LESS HECTIC!)
(d) worse than a year ago. Gas costs $1.69 a gallon and unemployment is running rampant (I don't trust the numbers in the media - I know people who no longer collect and are still out of work - they aren't included in the numbers). They give "first time claims for unemployment". What about "still unemployed and benefits have run out?" My friends in the headhunter business tell me things are bad out there. My friends in sales tell me no one is spending their money. Are these media people and survey takers getting their information from Miss Cleo?
The median housing price in L.A. County rose about 30% last year. I am a homeowner. I am happy. As for the business climate, even it "feels" and seems a little better than a year ago.
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