If we all were not so personally involved, the ebbs and flows of reports on the state of the economy would be fascinating theater. Today on reports of manufacturing activity, the Dow Jones Industrials are down 68 points; tomorrow the results of retail sales in July will bring it up 70. We’re “out” of the recession, but the jobless rate inches up; housing sales improve, but housing starts are down. How do we take all the data and reach a reasonable conclusion as to where the economy is heading?
But there is one economic measure, retail spending, for which we have pretty good data. And while the numbers do not show that the recovery is complete, they are encouraging.
Revenue from both the local option sales tax (LOST) and the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in Jackson County are up over nine percent from 2009. Granted, 2009 was a dismal year, but if nine-percent improvement from those numbers isn’t cause for celebration, at least it’s a sign that things are a little better. Those are real numbers — revenue is up by nine percent because people spent nine percent more money at the county’s shops, stores, restaurants and gas stations.
Here’s what we can take from those numbers. Retail sales are better this year than last. They may not be much better, but a nine-percent up-tick is preferable to a nine-percent decline or sales that remain flat.
Economists may have declared the recession over and the recovery under way, but each individual will make that call for himself based on personal circumstances. An unemployed person can take little comfort from a nine-percent increase in retail sales, but the owner of a shop whose business has improved by nine percent may see recovery happening.
It seems likely that we’ll be grasping for bits of good economic news for months to come; also that we’ll continue to get mixed signals. All signs indicate a slow recovery, a kind of two-steps-forward-one-step-backwards path that will require patience and where today’s good or bad economic news is likely to be mitigated by tomorrow’s bad or good report.
Nine percent higher retail sales is a good indicator. Let’s be happy about that while we can.