I was chatting with a small business owner recently. He provides a service that is a purely discretionary purchase. His business had been slow for the past few years because of the economy. But over this holiday season, he had all the work he could handle, and it was all local. He considers his business an early indicator for the economy as a whole. This made me curious. Was the economy starting to revive? So I started looking for other signs of recovery.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you’d expect signs of an improved economy to show up first. And sure enough, things around here are looking up all over the place. I thought I’d give you some examples to lift your weekend. If the economy is still weak where you live, or you’re struggling personally, perhaps it will help to know that there are bright spots in the country that are likely to spread. It has to start somewhere.
Last night I was standing in line at a local fast food place and ran into a woman I’ve known for eleven years. She’s a server at a white tablecloth restaurant in town. She told me business was slow last year, but picking up nicely so far this year. That’s good to hear.
The weirdest bit of good economic news is the number of my friends who are working on startups. Most of them have good jobs already, but they’re looking to get something going on the side as well. Weirder yet, I know several people who are working on more than one startup at the same time. If my wife and I threw a party at our house, and invited our usual group of friends, we’d have at least nine startups in the room. I’m probably forgetting a few. I’ve lived in this area all of my life, and I’ve never seen this much entrepreneurial energy.
A friend recently interviewed for a good job. The interviewing company offered him a choice of two positions. This happened right around Christmas. When was the last time you saw someone get a job around Christmas? And when was the last time you saw someone do one job interview and get two offers?
Two years ago I rarely saw any new construction in the area. Now I see a lot of it, including homes and roads. Road construction used to annoy me because of delays. Now it makes me happy because it’s a sign of an improving economy.
Unemployment is still an issue, but among the people I know locally, far fewer are unemployed now compared to a year or two ago. That seems to be moving in the right direction.
Nationally, stocks are up, and as of this morning, unemployment rates have dropped more than expected. Economies generally don’t move sideways. Usually they move up or down. As far as I can tell, things are getting better where I live. The exception is housing prices, which probably have further to fall. But the penalty for walking away from an underwater mortgage seems smallish these days, and I think people have psychologically discounted their home equity losses and are ready to move on.
We have a long way to go, but as far as I can tell, we’re heading in the right direction. How about where you live? Leave a comment saying where you live and whether or not your local economy is improving. Tell me what you observe within driving distance.