May 15, 2013

Editorial: Recovery is complete?

It would be easy to look at the state of the economy and conclude that we haven’t made much progress in our struggle to return to prosperity.

While the unemployment figures show some signs of improvement, they could be illusory in that so many people have just plain given up looking for work.

Productivity and housing figures just don’t give very conclusive encouragement for optimism.

On the other hand, the stock market burst through the 15,000 mark and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, even if the causes of the acceleration are filmy at best. Economists would surely feel better about the unrelenting upward trend if they could only point to the reasons for it.

This all appears to add up to just as much uncertainty on the economy as polls have claimed for the last couple of years.

A recent survey by American Express found that small businesses — particularly those in New York state — not only don’t see or foresee a dramatic economic turnaround, they have begun to believe one isn’t coming. What we’re seeing now is what we’ll have to live with from now on.

The survey is conducted by what’s called American Express Open, which claims to be the leading payment-card issuer for small businesses in the United States.

The most striking finding in the survey was that 57 percent of small-business owners in New York now believe the current economy is the “new normal.” That compares with 52 percent nationally and 51 percent in the Northeast.

Two-thirds nationally, regionally and in the state are still stressed out over the economy, and slightly over half have a positive outlook. Only a third nationally (40 percent in New York) believe the economy is recovering.

Yet almost 4 out of 5 on all levels still feel the American dream is attainable. And 4 out of 5 plan to increase their businesses in the next six months, though only one-third plan to hire, plan to give raises and expect higher sales over the next six months.

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