Is it time to give optimism another try?
After some dreary local jobs numbers in the winter months, the skies began to brighten in March and April. In the past week, the numbers for May have been released-and they were even more encouraging.
First, the state Department of Labor reported that the Rochester-area economy last month added both non-farm jobs and private-sector jobs-2,400 and 1,200, respectively. Then the department delivered May’s unemployment figures; the local jobless rate fell by nearly 1 percentage point, to 7 percent from 7.9 percent a year ago. In January, the rate was 9.1 percent.
So, the Rochester region is experiencing both an increase in the number of people employed and a sharp reduction in its jobless rate, though some of the latter is the result of a modest decrease in the labor force.
Positive signs are popping up all over in the national economy as well. Take the housing market-single-family home sales and prices are increasing at a pace not seen in seven years. Consumer confidence also has reached levels not seen in years, and capital spending in recent months has topped expectations.
Skeptics would say, of course, that we have been here before-and they would be right. In early 2011, economists were decidedly upbeat about the outlook for the year, only to be disappointed. Much the same occurred in 2012.
And it could happen again, of course. The longer-term impact of the sequester continues to be a concern, and Wednesday’s downward revision of first-quarter GDP growth prompted some to question the underlying strength of the economy.
But many experts believe the momentum gained in recent months is robust enough to clear such obstacles. With job growth boosting spending, and vice versa, the positive trends are mutually reinforcing.
Barring unexpected events–like the severe winter weather in this country and the disasters in Japan that knocked the economy sideways in 2011–the recovery is likely to continue strengthening.
To make sure that happens, employers need to exhibit some confidence of their own. It’s time to invest, expand staff and put more money into the hands of employees so they can help keep this momentum going.
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