Thursday, October 28, 2010

Signs of hope?


In the spring of 2009 when various economic commentators and politicians were suggesting the economy was sending out "green shoots," I was skeptical. A panel of economic poobahs tells us that the recession "ended" then, but it sure didn't feel that way out in the real world. The same outfit is now suggesting that the job situation may even be getting worse.

Yet I keep running into small bits of evidence that, just maybe, we might be turning a corner. For example, the sign above that I noticed here in San Francisco. You didn't see that kind of thing a year ago. And this one has obviously been up for awhile, since it has had water dripped on some of the letters. Those aren't great jobs, but they are JOBS.

Similarly, I've begun to hear stories about people who are losing their jobs because of company mergers or other structural disruptions -- but are finding new jobs at the same level or better than the previous ones. Things have been so bad for a couple of years that we may have forgotten, but that's how it used to work for people with strong skills and hence value to an employer. Yes, market capitalism constantly destroys weak parts of the system, but it also generates new, innovative parts of the economy. Or so they say. When people can find jobs as good or better than the previous one, that comes closer to ringing true.

I may just have been hearing infrequent good anecdotes or seeing rare signs and nothing good may be happening in the economy at large. Economists I trust like Paul Krugman and Dean Baker say hopes of an emerging recovery are still delusional, that we are entering a season of prolonged stagnation and pain.

But this is what I've been seeing.

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