Mixed Messages about the Economy

by Kay Lynn

There are signs the economy is recovering.  Restaurants and malls are busier as evidenced by parking and seating woes. An unsolicited email from a headhunter came last week so job opportunities are picking up.

At the same time foreclosures are up and the national unemployment rate is unchanged.  How can we know what’s going on when there’s good AND bad news sometimes on the same day.

A Case Study

New York, New York. Getting a manicure while drying hair at Francois de Paris, a hairdresser on Eighth Street (LOC)

The hair salon I patronize is a microcosm of this mixed message.  The business was started by two young women three years ago. Not a good time to build a clientele and keep afloat.

A daily deal website brought me there when I changed hair stylists earlier this year. I was often the only customer.  The last two times I visited, the place has been hopping! They now have three or four stylists and all seem busy.

This extra activity hasn’t translated into extra business for the esthetician.  She couldn’t survive on the work there and leaves soon for a new job at a Massage Envy where they’re expanding into skin care.

It was ironic that on the same visit, one person indicated she’s really busy and the other told me she can’t survive.

———-$$$$$———-

For those of us lucky enough to have kept employed throughout the recession, it’s pretty clear.  Our retirement accounts are recovering, although not as quick as we’d like, and our home values are stabilizing.  The economy is getting better.

But if you’re someone who lost a job, a home, or perhaps even both you are probably still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s hear from you.  Is the economy getting better or is it getting worse?
photo credit: The Library of Congress

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

The Everyday Minimalist October 18, 2010 at 7:24 am

I went through something similar.. in that I talked to a massage therapist who said her business was booming but other people are saying it’s not working for them lately…

I guess it just depends on so many other factors, we can’t paint a huge brush over everyone. Industry, job role, location, salary (rate per hour, by the job or salary in a year)…

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 5:53 am

Everyday Minimalist, you’re right. It’s all a matter of what people are willing to allow back into their budget and the actual business person.

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James Fowlkes October 18, 2010 at 7:49 am

It is a very strange thing this current economy. On the one hand I have friends who were let go from investment banks in NY during the crisis who are thriving right now. On the other hand I have friends in Philly and other large cities that have been unemployed for almost 2 years. Plus, the unemployment rate is around 10% which no matter how you cut it is very high. Things seem to be getting better but that doesn’t mean times aren’t still tough. That’s my 2 cents anyway! 🙂

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 5:55 am

James, the unemployment rate in San Diego was 10.6 in August which is a decrease from the high. I hear that number but it just doesn’t seem like it when I’m out at businesses and public areas.

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Everyday Tips October 18, 2010 at 11:58 am

I don’t even know what to think! I liked my investment returns in September, so that was good. However, a lot of businesses are still not spending on ‘discretionary’ items. Take advertising for example. So many advertising execs got laid off in the last few years where I live. These poor people are having a miserable time finding jobs. I know one person just found employment after 18 months, and it is in graphic design.

I think I will have a clearer view of my part of the country in another 6 months or so.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:00 am

Kris, great observation about location. California was one of the first areas to have problems and is probably one of the first to see results the of the slow recovery.

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Donna Freedman October 18, 2010 at 11:58 am

Every time I walk past the Northgate Mall the parking lot is full of cars. But I wonder: How many are shoppers are using credit cards to buy things they can’t pay for outright? How many had vowed to cut back but went through frugal burnout and returned to their old habits?
I’m not seeing improvement among my family and friends, with one exception: My brother is a freelance comic artist and he says business is pretty good at the shows he attends. It might be because $20 to $40 will get you an original piece.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:02 am

Donna, our mall’s parking lot is always packed as well. I had to go there last month and had to circle around and around to get a spot. I wonder if some people there aren’t really shopping at all but rather just hanging out with friends walking around in a climate-controlled environment?

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Fig October 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm

It’s hard to tell because of the mixed messages. Some people are doing better so they are shouting about the improved economy but at the same time a lot of people are still struggling. It’s so hard to think especially when there are so many factors.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:04 am

Fig, I think the economy is getting better but in sputters. Everyone is not going to have their situation improve at the same time. Some people may never get back to where they were because of the changing job market and other factors like age.

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retirebyforty October 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

We went to Ikea and a couple of other stores nearby and the parking lot was packed to the grill. It hasn’t been like this in a while. I think we are turning the corner and really have a good feeling about Q4. Hopefully companies will start hiring more and then next year will be a lot better.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:05 am

Based on the email I received, I think companies are definitely gearing up to hire next year.

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Bill Birnbaum October 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

The economy will get better slowly… but only slowly. And it will definitely be a “mixed bag” with some industries recovering faster than others. Health care will be (no pun intended) health. As will those industries benefiting from the rapid growth of the emerging nations… energy and materials primarily. As the baby boomers retire and downsize, they’ll put a whole bunch of (primarily large) houses on the market. This will depress prices for large homes for some two decades. Bill

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:08 am

Bill, I totally agree with your assessment. I haven’t thought about mass retirements by baby boomers will impact the economy. I know some of my friends had put it off for a “couple of years” until their 401Ks recovered somewhat and their houses regain some equity.

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iamtheworkingpoor October 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Locally, I see no signs of a recovery. There are no jobs, the mall is dead, people are only spending on the neccesities, and I’m still cashing a lot of unemployment checks for my customers. The recession is still in full swing in Florida.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:11 am

Working Poor, sorry to hear the recovery hasn’t made it to Florida yet. Was your state one of the latter ones to have problems?

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First Gen American October 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Where I am in the Northeast, all signs are pointing to recovery. Headhunter calls are way up, restaurants are mobbed, malls are busy, manufacturing shops are booked through the end of the year and later. It’s looking rosy again. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:12 am

First Gen American, glad to hear your part of the country is also seeing signs of recovery. It’s not quite as good here due to the housing situation. Too many people bought houses they couldn’t afford.

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SimplyForties October 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Every time I think things are getting better I think about my son who graduated from college in May and can’t find a job. He’s in Mississippi, one of the hardest hit states, economically speaking and they don’t seem to be recovering. I think we’re still dancing the two steps forward one step back dance!

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:13 am

SimplyForties, has your son considered moving to another part of the country?

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SimplyForties October 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

He’s waiting for his girlfriend, who is a junior, to graduate and then they’ll both leave. Ah, young love!

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Kay Lynn October 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm

It is nice, though!

Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black October 18, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Okay, I’ll bite and give my two-bits: I don’t think the economy’s hit bottom yet. I hate to even think it, but I’m guessing the interest rates will go up at some point and then, wow, it’s going to get bad.

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Kay Lynn October 19, 2010 at 6:14 am

Jolyn, please don’t be offended that I hope you’re wrong about the bottom.:) I’ll guess we’ll only know once it’s measurably up.

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Bret @ Hope to Prosper October 19, 2010 at 9:39 am

I was so lucky to be one of those who remained employed through this recession. During the dotcom crash I got laid off and it was no fun being an unemployed IT Manager in 2001.

I think the economy is a mixed bag. Some people and industries are doing well, such as medical, accounting, IT and energy. Others are going to struggle for some time, such as mortgages, construction and real estate. Some industries may never fully recover, such as automotive, journalism and advertising. The world is changing.

The only thing we can count on for sure, is that we can’t count on anything. That’s why I’m glad people are saving more and being more conservative with their purchases.

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Kay Lynn October 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Bret, I think it does depend on the industry. Southern California has a variety of industries so that is probably why many of us are doing fine through the recession. It’s a good point about not counting on any job lasting for the long term. My daughter-in-law worked for a company where one of their services was dial-up ISP. That business is never coming back and she got laid off last year.

You adapt or will stay unemployed.

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Aloysa October 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

One day I think it is getting better but then I come to work and we have layoffs and it seems that nothing is changing. We are lucky to have jobs. Those who don’t have a job are still looking. There are no jobs. At least where I am. Until we see some unemployment numbers go down (just a little bit), people will remain pessimistic.

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Kay Lynn October 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Aloysa, our employment numbers have declined from the high, but it’s very, very slow. We had a spate of turnover at my office in the spring (always a good sign) and now it’s nothing.

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Little House October 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I’m an optimist through and through and though there are still signs that the economy is stagnant (especially in the housing market), I think the overall momentum is moving in the right direction.

I also think whether the economy is getting better or not is completely industry related; for instance our schools are still suffering huge budget deficits with no end in sight. I’ve been lucky that I’m really flexible and can take on side projects when my day-to-day job is slower than normal. I can only see the future as “the glass is half full” so I’m predicting a better economy in the next 12-18 months!

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Kay Lynn October 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I would bet we’re all singing a different tune in a year. (But I am an optimist!) In my condo community, several units are on at market at regular prices (not foreclosures or short sales). I’m curious to see if these prices stick.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

I would say that in general, the economy is getting worse. This is part of a long-term trend that will call for a reduction in the overall standard of living in this country! Of course, within that you will have certain industries and individuals thrive.

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Jan October 21, 2010 at 7:34 am

I am seeing an interesting trend in the Phoenix metro. People are buying a smaller house on their good credit and then letting the bigger houses go to foreclosure! Then they are just “starting over being underemployed.
Here in Kansas we never really saw a recession- the rest of you are still eating!

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Kay Lynn October 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Jan, a lot of my extended family is in Kansas and they say the same thing. But I think it’s because there’s a variety of industry and housing prices were always stable. My sister and I in the West both had children lose jobs.

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