Your February economic outlook: Optimism creeping back?

We cringed a little a few weeks ago when a Minneapolis Fed report boldly proclaimed “Optimism is back” as it released its 2011 economic forecast for the Upper Midwest.


Sounded good until we got to the part about 2011 job growth beating 2010 in all parts of the region except Minnesota. Thanks.

Job growth means everything right now. It’s the only way to a broad recovery and prospects seem pretty weak.

So we were surprised to find glimmers of optimism when we reached out recently to Minnesotans in MPR’s Public Insight Network to get their household economic outlook for February.

With the official recovery (June 2009 to present) now longer than the official recession (December 2007 to June 2009), we’re hearing more from people who’ve absorbed the economic blows and may be rising slowly to their feet again.

“I expect our situation to improve (in February) because my husband just got some work after being unemployed for over a year,” said Teresa Cerling of Wykoff in southern Minnesota.

“I think we may go out to eat a few more times…I expect to start saving again after not saving anything for over a year.”

But does the recession feel like it’s over in her home? “Not yet,” she wrote us. “Even after we start having regular income it’s going to feel like catching up for awhile.”

Click on the map icons below to read some of the responses we got when we asked how February looked at your house (Click on the box at the upper right hand corner of the map for a full page view; use your “page down” key when reading the responses.)

Add your voice here and we’ll add you to the map.

Steve Boland’s found steady work and his family’s started saving cash that had been going out the door to pay off consumer debt. The St. Paulite described his current financial outlook as bright and sees smooth sailing this month.

“We have savings payments and not debt payments,” he said. “Same amount of working money for the house, but boy does that feel like an end to recession.”

Savings is one of those crucial barometers of our personal economic health. We didn’t do all that great as a society in the go-go years and when the Great Recession hit it looked like our love of leverage had come to an end.

While the Minnesotans we talked to are still in saving mode, there are national signs that we may be going back to our old ways.

Here’s a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis chart showing personal savings rates (click on the chart for a larger view).


Savings was on steady decline during the 1990s and 2000s. We started trying to save like crazy once the recession hit. But the newest data show our savings habits might be short lived.

“My situation will improve, because I will be able to pay off more of my credit card debts,” Joe Schaedler of Minneapolis wrote us.

The recession, he said, never hit his home directly because he was able to keep his job through the bad times. But he notes the workloads have doubled and his employer “has postponed hiring staff members for longer than was standard in the past decade.”

With a job, he expects his economy to improve. “However, I still have more unemployed friends and acquaintances than at any time in my life ….”


What’s February looking like for you? Drop us a line and help make our reporting smarter.

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