Help us end the fiscal year strong. Donate by June 30. Give Now

Life in the slow lane

David Brancaccio Jan 19, 2012

It’s not the harp strings of nirvana, but the employment picture is improving in the U.S. After going the wrong way a week ago, the number of people signing up for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level in more than 3 1/2 years.

Fred Dickson is chief investment strategist at D.A. Davidson. He says unemployment is down, in part, because banks are lending again. That’s allowing small businesses to get lines of credit to expand their business and hire staff.

In an otherwise rather upbeat stream of economic data, there was one noteworthy disappointing report out today from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. It surveyed manufacturers and even while showing some expansion, it fell short of expectations. That surprised Dickson, especially because a similar manufacturing survey released on Tuesday, the Empire State Manufacturing Index, beat expectations.

Dickson says both numbers are likely to move up and down a bit, and even on their best days, both are at the low end of positive territory. Dickson likens it to an economy “probably moving ahead at 20 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour speed zone.”

We’ll use the slow pace to better observe the green shoots that are appear to be pushing up through the post-Great Recession scorched earth.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.