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OK, For Real Though: How Is The Economy Doing?

(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

How is the economy really doing? We put the noise of politics aside and break down the numbers, right down to your wallet.


Greg Ip, chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal. (@greg_ip)

William Emmons, lead economist at the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Professor at Washington University’s Olin Business School.

We Put The Call Out To Listeners: ‘What Indicators Tell You How The Economy Is Doing?’

Here’s what folks had to say.

By phoneOn Point listeners Ryan and Eric left us voicemails with explanations as to why they think the economy is (or is not) working for everyone.

By social media … We had a whole host of great answers on Facebook. Here’s a selection.

Michael Craighead: “Factories have permanent ‘help wanted’ signs out where I am because low pay and declining conditions guarantee they can’t keep people. It’s not because they can’t hire fast enough for their growth.”

Dawne Kathleen: “What..?! The economy stinks. Employment is down because everyone needs 5 jobs just to pay bills and squeak by.”

Kevin Simmons: “I have no idea why everyone thinks the economy is bad. I make a mid-level accounting salary and I am doing just fine. My 401k went up 90k last year in mutual fund appreciation. This is higher than my salary. I am not rich. I am middle class and doing just fine. I saved the money to pay cash for my condo and I have no house payment. Most Americans are financially illiterate and live beyond their means. The bottom line is we all do well under the Trump economy.”

Cheri Fitzgerald Scott: “I can tell by the struggles my grown children are having. Food is expensive right now and it’s taking more of their money. New tires, unexpected medical expenses are things that have them reaching out to us for assistance.”

Greg Tancer: “I sell collectables for a living,I have been doing since the late ’80s. I have gone through a number of recessions and recoveries. And from that I have learned that we in the business feel the effect of a recession at least 1 to 2 years before it hits And conversely the recovery takes equally as long to show up when it comes. What I have learned is that discretionary income is the first thing to go before a recession hits. And people are just not buying at the markets. It’s bad enough that Many have left or retired from the markets and not many are coming in to replace them. The economy has not recovered for those who skirt the bottom of it. In fact its getting worse, with high rents, low paying jobs, that even gig jobs can’t fix. The bubble at to the point of bursting from the bottom and the top won’t even see it coming when it pops.”

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal: “Economists Got the Decade All Wrong. They’re Trying to Figure Out Why.” — “In the fall of 2009, the global financial crisis had only just ended, and interest rates were a mere 0.1%. Peering ahead, economists assumed the recovery would resemble previous recoveries, though a tad slower, and thus rates would start rising the next year and plateau at 4.2% by 2015.

“But by the fall of 2010, rates hadn’t budged. Like Charlie Brown taking another run at the football, economists gamely made the same forecast that year, and the year after that and the year after that. Rates remained stuck near zero until 2015, a stretch of free money unseen since the 1940s.

“When rates started to rise, they didn’t come close to levels once considered normal, ending the decade between 1.5% and 1.75%. Private-sector economists now expect them to average 2.4% over the long term, according to Blue Chip Economic Indicators. Judging by the bond market, they might have guessed high again: Ten-year Treasury note yields are just 1.8%—roughly zero, adjusted for inflation.”

CNN Business: “It took 10 years. Americans finally believe the economy is good” — “The old saying ‘time heals all wounds’ applies to the economy. Stung by the Great Recession, it has taken a decade for many Americans to feel safe in their jobs and investments again.

“The polls tell the story. As 2019 winds down, the economy is getting its best rating in almost 20 years. Overall, 76% of those polled rate the economy very or somewhat good, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That’s up nine points from last year and the highest percentage since February 2001.

“Time gets some of the credit. The president and his bullish megaphone get the rest.

“Although the economy was well into recovery by the time Barack Obama left office, President Donald Trump came to the White House channeling the people in districts left behind. The big question for 2020 is whether they feel like he has helped them enough.”

Wall Street Journal: “Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class” — “The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

“Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

“Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

“Student debt totaled about $1.5 trillion last year, exceeding all other forms of consumer debt except mortgages.

“Auto debt is up nearly 40% adjusting for inflation in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. And the average loan for new cars is up an inflation-adjusted 11% in a decade, to $32,187, according to an analysis of data from credit-reporting firm Experian.

“Unsecured personal loans are back in vogue, the result of competition between technology-savvy lenders and big banks for borrowers and loan volume.”

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