The New York Times’ Upshot blog shares a little secret today: The economy is taking off and a lot of people haven’t noticed. Just this morning, for example, the jobless claims report revealed pretty good news. And the number of housing starts last month was higher than expected.
The revelation flies in the face of an election-inspired focus on the Rust Belt and places where things are tough and people are suffering.
But Neil Irwin writes today that things are actually pretty good.
And while overall industrial production fell 0.3 percent in January, according to new Fed data, that was only because the warm winter depressed energy demand and thus output by utilities. Manufacturing output rose 0.5 percent. To cap off a day of good data pointing to an economic surge, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its survey of business activity soared to its highest level in two years.
This all continues a recent theme. The economy added 227,000 jobs in January despite an unemployment rate that is already low. The number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits each week keeps hitting lows not seen since the 1970s.
The improving data — and particularly the uptick in inflation — does create a puzzle for the Federal Reserve. In testimony this week, the Fed’s chairwoman, Janet Yellen, made clear that an interest rate increase was on the way, though she left ambiguity on whether it would happen at the Fed’s March meeting or later in the spring or summer.
Those are the numbers, but the emotion of the economy is a matter of anecdotes. If people aren’t “feeling” that things are improving, then they’re not.
Discuss: How’s your economy?
Related: The Rust Belt Elevated Trump, But Its Electoral Power Is Dwindling (FiveThirtyEight)