Economic prospects in the U.S. are brightening considerably.
While the world seems to be careening into upheaval and doubt, things on the domestic front in the U.S. are improving, with the recently released February jobs numbers being the most positive sign yet of that trend.
With Vladimir Putin’s offensive into the Ukraine darkening outlooks and prospects for a normal 2022, the good news about U.S. unemployment was welcome in many quarters.
2020 disappointed, as far as normal was concerned. 2021 wasn’t much better. On 2022, the jury is still out.
The U.S. is certainly facing myriad challenges, foreign and domestic. 2022 was always going to be a difficult job for the American President charged with overseeing the recovery process, regardless of party. In 2020, voters decided who they most trusted to steer the U.S. through what unquestionably would be difficult years. Voters chose Joe Biden for his experience and steady leadership.
That doesn’t make Biden’s job easy.
COVID19, and all the steps taken worldwide to mitigate its spread, have fundamentally remade the global landscape. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. The world’s 10 wealthiest men doubled their wealth during the pandemic, news unwelcome to anyone not angling for commercial space travel at $450,000 a seat for coach.
Back on earth, Covid ripples are still spreading throughout society like a dozen separate tsunamis. Factory shutdowns along production lines during outbreaks have resulted in supply chain disruptions seldom seen in wealthy countries like the U.S.
The price of goods, food and fuel have increased dramatically over the past year as the economy has struggled sluggishly through variants and the consequences of so much economic upheaval.
Rent is up; and it isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if indeed it ever does. Would-be rental property owners thinking of getting into the market now have to contend with the strong possibility that there might be another variant, or even another outbreak- perhaps of something worse than covid- during which they might not be allowed to collect rent.
As a result, the rental property market, which once was considered a relatively low-risk investment, is now a sub-prime lending environment. Property was once said to hold its value; now it’s a risky investment far less likely to pay off.
Sub-prime lenders may be one of the reasons rent has gone up as much as 40% in some places.
New home buyers and low-income families are being effectively priced out of home ownership as well.
Used cars are more expensive; new cars are more expensive.
Goods like home furnishings- something consumers could have normally expected to take delivery on in a matter of weeks, if not days- are taking months to arrive.
New car dealerships are taking orders more than selling cars. Car buyers are traveling hundreds of miles to find a car.
The crisis in the Ukraine isn’t helping matters much at home. Shaking everything from consumer confidence to the stock market, the conflict- and the risk of it spreading- are badly threatening an already fragile economic recovery.
2022 is a recovery still complicated by a thousand variables. But the U.S. economic picture- unlike that of Russia and the Ukraine, unfortunately- is certainly brightening.
The February jobs report is in and it is giving economists a much needed sigh of relief. The U.S. economy added 678,000 jobs in February, far exceeding the expectations of Wall Street’s best financial doomsayers.
The robustness of February’s jobs numbers brings unemployment down to a very manageable 3.8%.
While the U.S. economy still has a long way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels of employment, growth and consumer confidence, this is a big indicator of a positive turnaround.
The free market is very creative, as far as solving problems and keeping costs down to stay competitive. Even now, everyone from the Biden Administration on down is trying to find temporary work-arounds and long-term solutions to the current challenges.
Last month’s jobs report is a good sign that the American voter’s faith in electing President Joe Biden wasn’t misplaced. The Biden Administration has a plan to turn the U.S. economy around and that plan is working.
No one has a crystal ball, least of all the White House. Tuesday’s triumphant State of the Union Speech may have only preceded a new variant, another lengthy period of shut-downs, quarantines and economy-strangling mandates.
Barring that, the U.S. economy certainly appears to be on track to recover faster than experts dared hope. The resiliency of the American people, in addition to the lessons we’ve learned in managing covid more effectively, will hopefully help society weather future pandemic challenges in a more productive and sustainable way.
There will be no shortage of data in the years to come on the various measures cities, states and nations took to stop the spread of COVID19. Some efforts were more successful than others and it might pay to understand why for the purpose of planning for future pandemics.
Success is only really success if it is repeatable; otherwise, it’s just a lucky break.
The February jobs report points to a crack team of elected officials in the Biden Administration who have learned well over the last two unpredictable years to weather any storm, be it viral or economic.
February’s repeatable success seems likely to carry into March as the weather warms and COVID19 continues to wane to an endemic level.
The low unemployment rate shows that hope in a normal 2022 is still alive and well.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)