Many Americans just aren’t feeling the impact of the recovery in their daily lives.
Most economists think the recession technically ended a year or so ago, when the economy started growing again after shrinking for five quarters out of six. But a year’s worth of “recovery” hardly feels like it. Unemployment, at 9.6 percent, is painfully high, and companies show little interest in hiring. That leaves nearly 15 million unemployed Americans wondering what to do next.
Overall, Americans have lost $12 trillion in home equity, investments, and other forms of net worth. We’re ready to rebuild and go back to work, but instead of picking up steam, the economy seems to be stalling, possibly headed for a dreaded double-dip recession. The prolonged malaise could cost Democrats dearly in the upcoming midterm elections.
Healing is underway in badly damaged parts of the economy. But improvements have been too slow and subtle for many Americans to notice. Here are six ways to tell when we’re finally entering a recovery that feels like one:
The unemployed people you know start to find jobs. Unemployment is the single biggest indicator of economic health–or misery. Rising unemployment cuts into incomes and spending and spooks consumers, so it’s hard for housing, retail sales, and other key parts of the economy to recover until jobs come back. So far, they haven’t–but layoffs have largely stopped and temporary hiring is picking up, so we’re part of the way there.