Is the economy actually improving, or is the government misleading us? That seems like a valid question in light of the fact that in spite of the Obama administration and the main-stream media saying the economy is improving, there are more and more reports of businesses either closing its doors or downsizing.

In October of 2011, stalwart Lowe’s Home Improvement disclosed its intention to close 20 stores due to underperforming sales, resulting in 1,950 job losses. While that may not sound like a lot of lost jobs considering Lowe’s is a major national retailer, it is really significant since it is an indicator of the still sluggish new homes market.

In December 2011, Sears Holdings Corp, parent company of Sears and K-Mart stores announced it would be closing at least 100 retail establishments. Both companies have been around since the late 1800s, but recently have had problems competing with the likes of Wal-Mart and Target.

According to the December 31, 2011 issue of Forbes, 2012 could be a bad year for store closings. Two stores specifically mentioned were Filene’s Basements and Syms. One source in the article estimated that between 6,000 and 9,000 stores would close, representing approximately 50% more than a normal year.

The November 15, 2011 issue of Retail Info Systems News (RIS) reported store closings in 2012 could be up by as much as 37.5%. If correct, it will exceed 2011 closings. And this week Yahoo News reported ADM is closing its ethanol plant in Walhalla, ND, causing 61 people in a city of approximately 1,000 to lose employment.

Additionally, Yahoo News just announced that Pepsico, one of the nation’s largest snack and drink companies will be reducing its labor force by 8,700.

Plus, we all have been seeing local businesses shutter operations. In fact, it has become so common that now when my wife and I go shopping we look for stores that have closed. And invariably, every couple weeks we see one or two. And while we also see new businesses, the new by no means number the closings.

Another thing that seems totally out of kilter is the inflation rate. What is disturbing is that the two biggest components affecting inflation, food items and energy, are no longer considered in the inflationary formula. It seems to me that’s like removing theft and homicide from crime statistics.

Anyone who has been in a supermarket lately fully realizes prices are at an all-time high. And who can forget that it continues to cost more to fill up at the pumps? Plus, it was just announced that gasoline is expected to increase by $0.30 between now and May. And when I ordered propane for heating last month, the price was the highest I‘ve ever paid.

Now back to the unemployment rate; what about those who have given up on getting a job and are no longer on the rolls? It has been suggested that if those no longer looking and those with low-paying temporary jobs were added to the list, it could be 1-1/2 times higher.

We all like good news. We all want the economy to be doing better. But with all the negative signs it makes a person wonder if it really is.

So, is the public getting correct economic information from the government? Is the economy actually improving, or is the government misleading us in order to paint a brighter picture for political reasons?

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