All the signs seem to be pointing to a continuation of the economic recovery we’ve been experiencing for at least a year after the disastrous collapse of 2008.
Employment is up, unemployment is down, productivity is on the rise, and housing is on the mend. These are trends chartable across the globe, the United States and New York state.
The stock market surely likes what it’s been seeing. Many indexes are at all-time highs. Economists here and overseas are predicting continued good fortune in 2014.
This is not to say that there are no longer any concerns over the economy. Remember that ours is still being propped up by the Federal Reserve’s monthly infusion of cash into U.S. bonds that ensure that interest rates remain low as an incentive for people and companies to spend money. Pessimists keep reminding that at least some of our economic progress is simply the result of government manipulation.
The Fed has cut back on that aid, however, which is good news, and the markets have reacted favorably. How much more the Fed can reduce its assistance will be a barometer for the coming year.
But high hopes carry us into 2014. That is true in the North Country, as well. Just the other day, we learned that Dow Electric is buying the former Cleyn & Tinker building in Malone and plans a $900,000 renovation this spring to begin manufacturing electrical equipment there.
That will entail hiring 25 people to work at the plant. What spectacular news for Franklin County and all of us, really. It’s one more sign that the economy is encouraging investment.
Many other examples exist of local companies expanding or adding jobs.
But, as always, even good news internationally, nationally, statewide and locally brings with it apprehension. Not just over how much of our economic stimulation is real and how much is the result of government aid; a huge concern is how much corporate America is willing to return to its prior level of hiring and spending even when the recovery allows it.
During the past lean few years, companies have imposed layoffs, furlough days and generally frugal tactics to keep a healthy bottom line. They’ve learned to get the job done with fewer workers — sometimes, of course, leaning too heavily on the employees they kept.
Now that there is new breathing room, how will companies act in their newly reclaimed environment? Will they rehire as they are able? Will furlough days end? Will pay raises be reinstated? Or will the practices adopted in crisis prove too tempting to give up?
We are not out of the woods yet, by any means. But we can see the boundary. How employers behave when on firm ground once again is really the most important element of the recovery.