While the stock market may not see it, it is worth noting we have a lot to be thankful for, including a recent run of positive economic reports that suggest we may be coming out of the slump.
Last week, the government reported that retail sales were up 0.5 percent in October, capping several months of stronger than expected consumer spending. Consumers are drawing down some on savings, so this can't go on forever, but it could come in at 4 percent for the year, which is encouraging.
Manufacturing, which has been one of the few strong points of our economic performance in the last couple of years, shows continuing strength. The Commerce Department reported October industrial production rose 0.7 percent, stronger than expected. Direct reports from manufacturers continue to be stronger than the macro numbers suggest, not just because of rising exports, but also because a growing number of firms are increasing capital spending and gradually increasing hiring.
Which leads into some promising signs on the employment front. We added at least 80,000 new jobs in October, making 13 consecutive weeks of improvement, and I expect even better news when we get the November jobs report.
And did I mention that the number of housing permits jumped 10.5 percent in October? Of course, that is from a low base, but still, it's a movement in the right direction. Many regions are still burdened with excess housing, but in other areas demand is strong, prices are rising and building is underway.
And perhaps best of all, last Friday we saw the Conference Board's index of leading indicators jump 0.9 percent, the best showing since last February. That reflected across-the-board gains in housing, low interest rates, growing money supply, rising employment and lower inflation.
All of which added up to the 2.0 percent pickup in GDP growth in the third quarter reported yesterday, after a 1.3 percent rate in the second quarter, and a good chance it could come in at 3.0 percent or even better for the fourth quarter as business rebuilds inventories.
This good news does not yet mean we will necessarily avoid a downturn next year. We face a continuing threat to a healthy recovery because of the failure of the super committee to reach an agreement, an end to the payroll tax cut and the prospect of a European recession. Now if only our leaders in Washington could make a few tough budget decisions, we would truly have much to be thankful for.
Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements.
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