Here’s to cautious (economic) optimism

As I have discussed before, housing and unemployment remain a drag on the economy, but there are other things happening that are positive, including higher U.S. export volumes, the slow process of credit availability becoming more prevalent, sequential increases in GDP growth, and promising manufacturing data showing strong momentum.

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If you read my blog often, you probably know one of my favorite things to write about is the economy.

That said, it is no secret that since, say, September 2008, when Wall Street nearly melted down, it has been one heck of an interesting ride. And one need not look too far before that to January 2008, when literally thousands of Americans were losing their jobs on a daily basis pretty much.

During the entire Great Recession, there was much discussed about our new reality and myriad questions about what the future may hold. Well, fast forward a little more than two years later and you can tell that things are better. Not great, just better. And to be honest, that is a good thing.

As I have discussed before housing and unemployment remain a drag on the economy, but there are other things happening that are positive, including higher U.S. export volumes, the slow process of credit availability becoming more prevalent, sequential increases in GDP growth, promising manufacturing data showing strong momentum, and favorable forecasting from the Federal Reserve this week calling for the output of goods and services in 2011 to grow in the 3.4-to-3.9 percent range, up from November’s estimate of 3-to-3.6 percent. Should that revised estimate hold serve, it would represent the best annual increase since 2004.

If those data points don’t excite you, please allow me to try one more.

Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) released its 2011 economic forecast, and the news is good. According to the NRF, retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will increase 4.0 percent from 2010.

This estimate comes on the heels of data released by NRF and the Department of Commerce last Monday, which cited improving retail sales for the seventh straight month, with Commerce reporting that January was the best month for retail sales since November 2007.

While there is a long way to go, there are some good signs and metrics out there. I know we are all very tired of the term “cautious optimism,” but it applies here once again.

It is a phrase that people tell me quite often, when I am conducting interviews or am on the road at an industry conference. The majority of people telling me to be cautiously optimistic are the one in the trenches every day moving freight and providing transportation and logistics services for shippers or are shippers, so I am inclined to stick with what they are saying.

Here’s hoping that they are right and that things continue to get better.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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