That is the date economists say the recession officially ended. That was two and a half years ago. The President maintains we're in a recovery, and he's taking credit for it.
“And we began to see signs of economic recovery here at home, even as too many Americans are still struggling to get ahead,” said President Obama. “There's no doubt that 2012 will bring even more change.”
Here's the thing: there have been some good headlines over the past year or so, but a few bits of good news does not a recovery make. Because I bet if someone asked you at home if you're better off now than you were four years ago - I don't think you'd be as cheery.
Let let the numbers speak for themselves. Last week, we told you the economy grew 2.7% in the final quarter of 2011. That's the largest quarterly increase in a year and a half. Plus, the U.S. economy has experienced ten straight quarters of positive economic growth.
However!!! Even with the strong finish, the economy expanded just 1.7% for the whole year - roughly half the growth in 2010. And growth is expected to slow in the first three months of this year. The folks who track recessions for a living -- the NABE -- forecast growth of just 2.5 percent this year. That's punk compared to most recoveries when the economy jumps 5 or 6 or 7 percent.
The unemployment rate tells a similar story. Here's the good news. The rate is now down to 8.5% from more than 9% over the summer.
However!!! The unemployment rate has been above 8% for the last 35 months, and is still considerably higher than the 7.8% when Obama took office.
Full employment is around 5 to 6 percent, but we've been down so long, 8.5% looks like up to us. If you don't have a job, chances are you're not spending much, including buying a house, which is a main reason why housing remains so weak.
For all of 2011, existing home sales actually rose by nearly two percent to more than four million homes. That's pretty good. However, back in 2005, more than seven million homes were sold. And, even though home prices are falling, one report today has prices falling another 3.75% in December. People aren't willing to buy. Perhaps because they're spending so much on gas!
The good news: gas prices have declined to $3.43 a gallon from nearly four dollars last spring.
However!!! That $3.43 is considerably higher than how much it cost for a gallon of gas back in January of 2009. And, if you're lucky enough to have a job, you're probably not so happy about your pay. The median earnings over the last decade haven't really changed much. Adjusted for inflation, the average worker made about $39,125 back in 2000. Four years ago, you'd have made $39,224. Now, it’s $39,312. Not too impressive.
A lost decade. A decade we can't afford to repeat. When thinking about who to vote for president this election cycle, ask yourself if you're better off now than four years ago - I bet I know the answer!