Marketplace Scratch Pad

Optimism?

Scott Jagow Mar 29, 2010

This could be a big week for gauging the economy’s turnaround prospects. Friday’s jobs report could be the most positive in many months. And a report out today suggests consumer spending is picking for real.

The Commerce Department reported that personal spending rose 0.3 percent in February, the fifth straight month of increases. Christian Science Monitor has this analysis:

“Overall, real consumer spending is on track to rise just above 3 percent [annualized] in the first quarter, which would be the strongest increase in three years and much better than the fourth quarter’s 1.6 percent,” economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight says in a written analysis of the numbers.

Economists are predicting the possibility of a net gain of jobs for March, perhaps plus 200,000 or even 300,000 jobs.

Economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland is pretty upbeat:

Finally, it is happening!

The economy needs to create about 140,000 jobs each month to keep pace with labor force growth, and it is a long way from getting back the 8.4 million jobs lost during the Great Recession.

If Americans can manage down their trade deficit with China and cut gasoline consumption, gradually, the economy can get back those lost jobs.

Increased consumer spending is usually a leading indicator of employment. The more consumers spend, the more likely companies are to start hiring.

One troubling statistic is that inflation-adjusted incomes have remained flat for about six months or so, continuing a decade-long trend of incomes not growing.

But overall, are you finally starting to feel a bit more optimistic?

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.