Saturday, October 7, 2017

Glass Half Full

It's the age-old question: Is the glass half full or half empty? And it applies big time to our chaotic society today -- with its shootings, nuclear threats, hurricanes, political upheavals and more.

I'm going with half full.

Say what? How can anyone be optimistic given the horrors the 24/7 media lays on us every day? But I am optimistic, and here's why.

  • The stock market is soaring, shrugging off negative news, setting new records every week. I'm benefitting, but so are many others, including wage earners across the country. Half of the U.S. population is invested, either directly or through pension plans. This rising tide really does lift all boats, or at least a good many of them.
  • Unemployment hit a 16-year low, down to 4.3%, with 135,000 new jobs reported in September, and that's actually lower than the 180,000-per-month average for the first eight months of the year. Blame the hurricanes. Underscoring the good news, job growth has been strong across the board, benefitting blue-collar workers and college graduates alike. Further, economists report, chronically unemployed workers, those on the sidelines who despaired of finding employment, have rejoined the labor force at the highest rate since 2010.
  • And income is up. Median household income, adjusted for inflation (which remains low), rose 3.2%, surpassing 1999, the previous high. Low-wage earners scored the biggest gains. And the number of indigent Americans has declined, with the poverty rate falling to 12.7%.
  • Gross domestic product (GDP), that broad indicator of economic health, broke through 3% in the first half of 2017, a harbinger of good times ahead. Consumer confidence is the highest it has been in over ten years.
  • U.S. exports are growing at an annualized rate of 6%, outpacing the average of the previous decade. And this is in spite of uncertainties about oil and natural gas prices. American food exports are up 9% over last year, driven by jumps in dairy exports (up 25%) and beef exports (up 16%). Coal is being shipped overseas in record amounts.
  • Perhaps most important, the economic boom is not limited to the U.S. Growth is taking off around the world. The Wall Street Journal reports that all 45 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are poised to grow this year, many at record paces -- overall the rosiest picture since 2007.  Even Greece and Portugal are bouncing back, something no one would have thought possible just a few years ago.
  • Both the feds and many state governments are taking steps to ease labor shortages, both for seasonal workers and high-tech scientists and engineers. Even with the expanding economy, there are virtually millions of unfilled jobs. These shortages, or at least some of them, are being addressed by increasing visas available to foreign workers.
All in all, we have reason to feel pretty good about the future. So when I hear the pundits talking about the decline of the America way and the social abyss that awaits us all, I just shrug and check my market holdings.

The glass is indeed half full.

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