It's early, and we don't want to jinx it. We've still got a long way to go. There certainly are variables that could intercede, and there surely will be speed bumps along the way. But let's just say right here and now that the U.S. economy has begun a bona fide, full-fledged recovery.
There. We said it.
The U.S. economy is not yet roaring, but it is definitely clearing its throat from some of the nasty phlegm left over from the Great Recession.
In one 24-hour news cycle last week, the headlines in the BizTimes Daily painted an image of recovery:
- "Unemployment claims continue to plummet." The number of Americans who applied for first-time unemployment benefits dropped again to the lowest level in almost four years, providing additional evidence that the national economic recovery is picking up steam. Initial jobless claims have fallen steadily since last summer. As a result, the national unemployment rate has declined to 8.3 percent from 9.1 percent last August.
- "General Motors Co. reports record profits." General Motors reported a record annual profit, two years after the nation's largest automaker emerged from bankruptcy with the help of a federal bailout. GM said it earned a record $7.6 billion in 2011, higher than its previous record of 1997. As a result, GM's 47,500 eligible hourly workers will receive profit-sharing checks in March of up to $7,000, an all-time high. That money will reverberate throughout the economy. With rivals Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group already having reported profits for last year, 2011 marked the first time since 2004 that all three major U.S. automakers were profitable at the same time.
- "Mortgage foreclosures fall." The percentage of U.S. mortgages that are delinquent fell in the fourth quarter, and fewer loans entered the foreclosure process, reflecting an improving economy, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported.
- "Stocks rise to new highs." The Dow Jones Industrial Average recently climbed to its highest point since May 2008, and the NASDAQ recently ascended to its highest point since 2000.
- "Leading economic indicators on the rise." The U.S. economy is expected to continue strengthening, possibly picking up this spring and summer, according the Conference Board, which said that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) grew 0.4 percent to 94.9 in January, led by the interest-rate spread and manufacturing hours.
One day after the headlines, a Milwaukee TEC chair stopped by my office and informed me that all of the companies in his TEC groups are reporting robust jumps in sales, the likes of which he has not seen before.
We took pride in being among the first to let our readers know that the Great Recession was happening in the summer 2008. And we're going out on a limb again to tell you that an earnest economic recovery is building steam and will continue to surge as 2012 unfolds.
"Don't break out the champagne yet, but put a few bottles on ice. It may be a very bright spring," said Peter Morici, professor of economics at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Jeff Joerres, CEO of Manpower Group, feels the pulse of the global economy. "We're seeing enough signs to say the trajectory is there, We're on the way," although some obstacles could still arise, Joerres said.
The one thing that could dampen this recovery is soaring gas prices this summer. Either way, we'll keep you posted ...
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.