I heard the POTUS’s econo-press conference today where he went off on how the economy was like an aging dude working out after eating a double-bacon-cheese burger, or something like that. Anyway, he got a question about if the job market is really improving, including wage gains like those I featured today, why aren’t people feeling it?
I hear that a lot–it’s a fair question, and especially given the extent of inequality and its negative impact on long-term wage and income stagnation for many in the workforce, I’m not surprised by this sentiment. There’s a whole lot of reasonable economic expectations that haven’t been met for far too long.
But all that said, I’d expect the improvements that I and others have been documenting to make some difference in people’s and businesses’ sentiments about the economy, especially given cheap gas, low inflation, and the increasing buying power of at least some people’s paychecks.
Given the pervasiveness of this meme of dissatisfaction, you’d expect consumer and business confidence surveys to be in the tank, right?
Not so much, actually. I don’t have time for a deep dive and I just pulled these off of this very helpful website. It’s true that the trend in recent months has been pretty flat. And I’m sure you can find some version of this sort of thing that shows a more negative trend. But these figures of consumer sentiment do not look to me like they’re wholly disconnected from the improving job market. Most trends appear to have recovered from the Great Recession.
I don’t conclude for a moment that every one is feeling great, nor should they. There’s too much poverty, too much inequality, too much racism, too much violence, too many guns, too little mobility, and way, way too much political power concentrated in the hands of the few.
Speaking of politics–and President Obama made this point well–one wonders how much of this negative meme is a function of candidates for presidents whining about how horrible everything is, and how that’s the fault of [group you don’t like goes here].
Anyway, I’m not nearly so quick to believe the meme that nobody’s feelin’ the improving economy. I’d like to see more facts of the case.