Forty-seven percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll rate the state of the U.S. economy today as fair. Thirty-seven percent rate it good. Only 4 percent gave the economy an excellent rating, while 12 percent said it is poor.
Roughly half of respondents are optimistic about the prospects for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months. Slightly more than one in five are neutral, and 29 percent are pessimistic.
Last Friday’s employment report delivered positive news about the U.S. economy. Employers added 321,000 jobs, the most in nearly three years, and the unemployment rate remained at a six-year low of 5.8 percent. Through November, the U.S. economy has added more than 2.6 million jobs—the best hiring performance in 15 years.
The report pushed the stock market even higher. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 index posted new closing records.
Yet the employment report also showed that in November 2.8 million people—or nearly one-third of the unemployed—had been out of work for more than six months. Including involuntary part-time workers and people who have stopped looking for work, the jobless rate was 11.4 percent. And while hourly pay increased by the biggest amount since early 2013, the annual gain remains only slightly higher than the inflation rate.
Elsewhere globally, China’s growth has slowed, the 18-nation eurozone has barely grown in the last two quarters and Japan has slipped into recession.
Roughly 600 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Dec. 8 and 9.
Overall, how would you rate the U.S. economy today?
How do you personally feel about the prospects for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months?
Very optimistic: 10%
Somewhat optimistic: 39%
Somewhat pessimistic: 22%
Very pessimistic: 7%
It is impossible to describe the economy in one word. It’s like saying if your head is in a freezer and your feet are in an oven, your temperature is average. There are good sectors and there are bad ones. The question is—do we try to keep alive the areas that are suffering (and always may be), or do we get out of the way of the hot sectors?
—Marc Sachdev, Ardent Learning
I am optimistic about the U.S. economy, but more training is required in the workforce to bring and keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. Every quarter in Rochester you hear the complaint from some manufacturers they can’t find employees with the right skills. More diverse training will create a more diverse and skilled work force ready for expansion and opportunities.
It’s unfortunate because most only see this large number and think our economy is doing great. They do not see the underlying numbers and how they will affect our long-term economy and the middle class. It also does not show that a large number of these jobs are part-time or seasonal workers and that (many) permanent full-time jobs continue to go away forever. No wonder the Democratic Party is compensating for its blunders by pushing so hard for a 100 percent increase in the minimum wage.
—Barry Alt, A2Z Enhanced Digital Solutions
The true test will be when the Fed starts to raise interest rates and whether businesses start to raise wages. Both have to happen if the economy is going to be truly healthy.
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport
Way too much governmental regulation, taxation and interference in the private sector. Government should not pick winners and losers.
I think the improvements since Obama has been in power are amazing—so if the opposition does not continue to sabotage growth, we will all be better off.
The nation’s economy is probably most usefully regarded as a rigged game, one that more and more favors a smaller and smaller group of richer and richer rentiers. The New Deal may have inaugurated economic policies that made the nation prosperous in the last century, but all that has been pretty efficiently undermined by the government-hating, union-hating supply-side flimflam we were sold in the Reagan era. Now a rising tide lifts only the yachts; everyone else either sinks or must bail furiously just to stay afloat.
We stink, but we just stink a little less than most of the rest of the world. Welcome to the Banana Republic of America, boys and girls.
—Devin Michaels, Chili
This is still the slowest post-recession recovery in modern history. The U-3 unemployment rate is not the important metric. It’s the U-6, which has been as high as 17 percent and is even now double the U-3. When the U-6 is 12 percent, it means that one out of every eight adults you see is either unemployed or underemployed. That’s millions and millions of Americans not able to achieve their full potential. Add to that the fact that the denominator, labor force participation, is the lowest since Jimmy Carter was president. We need to get big government out of the way of job creation.
—Luis A. Martinez, Pittsford
The U.S. is living in a perpetual state of war in Washington. We are unable to govern, and the stock market is overpriced. Republican landslides have typically led to market corrections. On a personal basis, my wife—an experienced RN whose performance is rated outstanding—received a salary increment that was so small that it didn’t cover the increase in her health care premium. Money continues to flow upward and out of the country. I see an economic downturn in 2015, continued war, and further racial divisions. Locally, New York cannot stop raising property taxes, and retiring boomers are going to vote with their feet, moving to hospitable states and taking their money with them. Economic outlook fair to poor for 2015-16.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
In spite of what Lovely Warren and Adam McFadden believe, there is no such thing as a free lunch. We need to enjoy the low gasoline prices and the lower energy costs while we can, because the sheiks are going to make their revenue goals. It’s merely a question of when.
With all the positive talk about jobs numbers, how many people have dropped out of the job market and stopped looking? How many people are underemployed and have been forced to take part-time or lower-wage jobs than their previous position? I know after I’ve been to the grocery store and measured out my 10-gallon-at-a-time gas, there isn’t much left. I don’t feel I have money to spend, or feel effects of a good economy, but I am grateful for my job.
The U.S. economy is a 12-cylinder engine running on four cylinders, restrained by local, state and federal government policies, laws and regulations, which I am increasingly convinced are designed to make more and more Americans members of the dependency class. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Millions of people not paid enough to support themselves on top of millions more unable to find work. That translates to a tragic economy. Add to that a failing education system for everyone and much worse for the poor. It adds up to a society that is going to viciously turn on the wealthy one of these days—with good reason. This is not the U.S.A. in which I grew up.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
I live in New York, and while the governor touts his economic program giving 10 years of tax relief to businesses that locate in proximity to a state university, the New York economy—particularly upstate—is at best a slow slog. Real estate sales are slow, and prices remain near frost levels. New York remains a hostile environment for economic growth. Taxes on existing businesses are among the highest in the nation. The state legislature does not have a clue, and they are stuck in the political fray of defending the party instead of their public. Political corruption and graft remains a serious problem. I give credit to a lot of local governments for their efforts to help their local economies. However, without a regional economic plan they will continue to have difficulty making gains. The state needs an overhaul, not likely to occur with entrenched democrats at the helm. I feel very sorry for the youth of today. As they grow and mature they are likely to look to other states for a good job and a reasonable cost of living. Fortunately, nationwide a positive trend appears to be getting a foothold. We shall see.
Employment/unemployment cannot be measured based on seasonality. Adding 321,000 is great, but we still have the 2.8 million long-term unemployed. That overshadows the best performance in 15 years.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Thank goodness for the contributions of the U.S.A. oil and gas industry for increasing our energy independence, lowering prices and creating jobs. Now if we could get the government to retract its new programs and regulations, we might even get back to a decent growth picture.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Over the next several years, I would expect the U.S. to again become a center of global manufacturing. We are the largest market, have the best transportation system, long navigable coasts of both the Atlantic and the Pacific and—despite our political dysfunction—operate according to the rule of law. Our labor laws keep our cost of labor lower than European nations and our cost of energy is much lower than other industrialized countries. The big gap here is our inability to educate a work force for 21st century manufacturing jobs. Nevertheless, the other factors I have mentioned will drive the economy in a positive direction for another decade—and perhaps beyond—if politicians in Washington can ever find a way to resolve structural deficits in our safety net programs.
—John Calia, Vistage International
Superficially the economy is improving, but at what price? Much of the recovery is being driven by some of lowest interest rates in modern history. These interest rates are artificially low because of dangerous Federal Reserve policy highlighted in part by quantitative easing at a peak of $86 billion a month this past year. In addition, the fiscal policies of this administration and Congress have recently raised the national debt to over $18 trillion. Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable, according to the trustees of both programs. It has been estimated that long-term obligations of the government are more than $100 trillion. The Federal Reserve, the current administration and Congress are violating the laws of economics and eventually could create a form of national insolvency. The current Keynesian economic policies must be changed because massive government policies of picking winners and losers must be stopped. The inefficient government sector must be downsized and resources be shifted to the private sector. This would be accomplished through tax cuts, elimination of damaging regulations, reduction of government staffing, etc. Tax cuts will spur investors from across the globe to invest massive capital investments. Also, encouraging domestic oil, gas and coal production on both private and public lands would unleash massive revenues to the economy. This is the formula to a legitimate healthy economy.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
There are really two economies. For those who are in the good economy, the one that is growing and the one where the haves have more and more and the one which the politicians and the TV talking heads speak of, the economy is improving by leaps and bounds. The other economy, the one where employment level (increases) are created is by part-time jobs or through independent contractor jobs or where wages and salaries are stagnant, the economy is an endless treadmill to stand in place. In place means from paycheck to paycheck never getting ahead or even getting better. The answer to the question is which economy is going to grow by more: the good economy or the other economy? The answer is not curing income inequality or redistributing income. The answers are those in the other economy need to do what is needed to be done to put them in the good economy and those in the other economy need to understand that the process is going to take many years.
One has to look behind these economic numbers. Adding 321,000 jobs to the economy is great, but how many of those are part-time jobs, or the less-than-30 hours Obama jobs? The unemployment rate of 5.8 percent must also be weighed against the labor force participation rate, which factors in all the workers who have given up looking for a job. If we didn’t have job-killing legislation like the Keystone XL Pipeline and the job-killing Affordable Care Act, then our economy would be a lot further ahead than it is now. What was Obama shoveling with those shovel-ready jobs?
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.