A whole slew of positive numbers from Gallup over the last few weeks show that the economy appears to be continuing to slowly improve.
Headlines from all over are reporting the positive bump that the economy is likely to get during the holiday season, and I'm sure retailers were heartened with the news that Gallup says that Americans are planning on spending about the same as they did last year. Other outlets have been reporting an uptick in consumer spending, the main driver of our economy.
Although it is much lower than it was last year, it appears that consumer confidence has hit bottom, having bounced around between 51 percent and 46 percent since it plummeted in July. Now, lets hope Greece doesn't implode and test the strength of this slow, but steady, recovery, and that people are slowly beginning to see past the hyperbolic headlines that suggest the likelihood for a double dip recession is far higher than economists think it is.
The most positive numbers come from unemployment. Gallup's numbers are more rosy than the official government numbers, having showed a drop from nine percent to 8.3 percent in just the last couple months, as well as a similar drop in the number of underemployed part-time workers who are looking for full-time jobs. These numbers are trending downward, and the last two weeks' rolling 30-day averages are the lowest Gallup has measured. Gallup measures unemployment differently than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the downward tick will hopefully be seen in the government's numbers.
Confidence, planned holiday spending, consumer spending in general and even unemployment in the long run are all side effects of job creation though. Perhaps the best economic news out of everything we've heard of late can be summed up from this Gallup chart:
Although not as good as we saw in June, numbers being brought in from all around suggest more employers are hiring, while less are planning on firing. The index above is derived from polling that shows the difference between employees who "say their companies are letting workers go and reducing the size of their workforces decreased", which in October was 32 percent on the hiring side, vs 18 percent on the firing side. The hiring number has been in the low thirties for several months now, the best stretch our economy has seen since just before the economy went into a tailspin in late 2008.
That last sentence is worth repeating. For a while it seemed like we were resigning ourselves to being satisfied when the economy just wasn't getting worse, or was getting worse slower. Now we're looking at actual improvements, and the numbers we're focusing on is whether job growth can keep pace with population growth and people who had previously given up on looking for work coming back into the workforce. They may not be looking skyward, but things are most certainly looking up, and show no indication of turning back around.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.