Happy days are…

I guess I thought the end of the recession would be announced with a bigger deal. But there it was buried in a stack of wire copy, just another story.

Fed findings indicate recession may be over, the Associated Press declared today in a story about a Federal Reserve Bank survey of the country’s regions.

In the new survey, all but one of the Fed’s 12 regions indicated that economic activity was “stable,” showed “signs of stabilization” or had “firmed.” The one exception was the St. Louis region, which continued to report that the pace of decline in economic activity appeared to be “moderating.”

The full Federal Reserve report — called The Beige Book — is available here.

The Minneapolis region’s report, however, is hardly the stuff that leads to cartwheels.

On consumer spending:

Overall retail spending remained soft, except for auto sales, which were boosted by the cash-for-clunkers program. A major Minneapolis-based retailer reported that same-store sales in July were down 7 percent compared with a year earlier. Same-store sales at two Minneapolis area malls were down 4 percent and 8 percent, respectively, compared with last year.

On construction:

Commercial construction activity mostly decreased, with some bright spots noted in public construction projects.

On agriculture:

… lenders expect overall agricultural income and spending to decrease in the third quarter

On employment:

In Minnesota a defense contractor laid off over 300 workers, a boat manufacturing plant also cut over 300 workers, about half of its labor force, and a medical device manufacturer announced plans to reduce staff by 200 companywide. A meatpacker in South Dakota laid off 30 workers. Competition for seasonal work was much greater this summer compared with a year ago in many areas of the District.

But, the Fed says, some month-to-month employment gains have occurred.

Reuters, however, wasn’t quite as upbeat as the Associated Press, noting only that there are some signs of improvement.

Wall St. seems to be siding with that sort of shoulder shrug. At mid-afternoon, the Dow was up an uninspiring 33 points.

Aside: Be sure to spend some time with American Public Media’s Marketplace program. It’s just launched an impressive series about people who’ve started over in the recession.

  • John P.

    The definition of a recession is “A significant decline in activity across the economy, lasting longer than a few months”. That would seem to imply that as soon as things “stabilize”, the recession is over. The various Feds seem to be saying that the receding has stopped, or something close to it. That does not mean the economic effects of the recession are reversed.

  • Bob Collins

    That’s a different definition than the one I’ve always used for “recession,” i.e. two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP.

    To me, that doesn’t imply not falling as fast or even stabilizing and holding steady. It implies growth.

    Very little of what I read in the Minneapolis portion of the report screamed “growth” to me.