Is the U.S. economy in fact recovering? There doesn't appear to be any clear agreement, and that can be downright frustrating. But it's also downright predictable, at least from my perspective. Economists and statisticians can disagree on every point, and then some.
Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has been quoted as saying, “I was right 70 percent of the time. But I was wrong 30 percent of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years.”
He was quoted as saying this when he was assessing his own legacy before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee, according to Newsweek.
The media have been bombarding us with news of the “recovery,” or no recovery, depending upon whom you choose to believe.
Newsweek's April 19 cover story proclaimed, “America's Back! The Remarkable Tale of Our Economic Turnaround.” It was filled with statistics like, “17,000 — the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs added in March, the third consecutive monthly gain.” “11,000 — the level the Dow Jones Industrial Average has flirted with for the past few weeks, up 70 percent in the past 13 months.” “$398 billion, the combined stock market value of Apple and Google, up from a few billion in 2002.”
However, there are also sobering statistics. Only 16 of 384 metro areas showed employment growth in the latest Adversity Index, according to an article from MSNBC.com. Of the nation's 384 metro areas, 205 had begun to recover, or 53 percent. Gains are in manufacturing and housing, not employment.
One thing I've learned in my life as a reporter is, never believe what you read. That is, take everything in stride and learn to question everything. Mark Twain had great perception when he said, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
If you see indicators in your own business that say “Follow North,” then don't necessarily “Follow South” just because someone issued a report or story with opposing information. There are several factors to weigh, including: your own experience, your own analysis of the market, what your customers are telling you and what your books are telling you.
If recent news in the plastics industry is any indication, officials at least are more willing to reopen idled plants as more orders are coming in. We've seen several stories over the past few weeks about plants reopening or new projects to open new sites, including Alpla Inc.'s investment in St. Louis.
But trust your own instincts in operating your business. The truth is, no one knows what the future will bring.
DeRosa is a Plastics News correspondent based in Oklahoma City.