Why America’s Confidence Is Fragile
The recession is over, and the U.S. economy is showing some encouraging signs of economic renewal.
Shoppers are hitting the malls and stores, helping to drive up retail sales. I’d stick with the top department stores, like Macys, Inc. (NYSE/M), or discounters, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), which will continue to rebound.
The housing sector has been sizzling since the recession, with a superlative rise in housing starts, building permits, and home prices. Homebuilder stocks, including the developers of residential real estate, are sizzling on the charts—Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE/TOL) and Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE/HOV), especially.
Since the recession, the jobs market is showing some growth, with the unemployment rate holding just below eight percent. As the jobs market recovers, look to some of the staffing companies, such as Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE/RHI), Manpower Inc. (NYSE/MAN), and Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ/KELYA), to deliver.
So, America appears to be headed in the right direction since the recession hit; but underneath all of the economic jargon and positive media headlines about the “Great Recovery” in America’s economic engine, there’s still a sense that many people are still trapped in economic despair, feeling the impact of the recession.
After scanning through “Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era,” I can see that uneasiness and worry remains a real issue in the minds of Americans. (Source: Szeltner, S., et al., Worktrends February 2013, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey web site, last accessed February 12, 2013.)
Some of the key findings of the research were as follows:
• About 90% of the respondents remained worried about the jobs picture, and about 63% of the job seekers were very concerned.
• About 46% took jobs that were viewed as below their skill and education levels.
• As far as the economic recovery, only 32% expect to see improvement over the next year, while 54% feel a recovery will take between six and 10 years.
• About 35% of U.S. residents believe the recession had a major impact on their lives.
• Around 56% of Americans said they had less in savings now than when the recession started.
• And a final thought that was interesting was that about 25% had to seek help for stress or depression.
The research clearly indicates a situation in America that is not as it appears on the surface. Yes, the situation is far better than where it was during the recession, but there remains tens of millions of Americans that are still battered from the impact.
There are still over 22 million Americans looking for work that are unemployed or underemployed, with about 12 million who are fully unemployed. It will take years before the situation improves. The reality is that these are not good job numbers, since many are taking minimum-wage jobs just to fight off the creditors and put food on the table. And as I’ve said before, the millions of jobs that have vanished from the U.S. landscape to faraway places, such as China, India, Mexico, and Latin America, are likely gone for good, as America will never be able to compete on wages.
While the signs point to recovery for many Americans, there will be many that will feel like they were abandoned and left behind during this economic recovery.