Freight trains are getting longer, oil leaks in parking lots are fewer: both those things make Clemson economics guru Bruce Yandle happy, reports the Independent Mail. Both are among the real-world tea leaves Yandle reads, along with heaps of statistics, that tell him the long-faltering economy is getting better.
“There is happiness being carried on those trains,” Yandle said.”There are things people want to buy, and there are people able to make and sell them to them.” Retail sales, in fact, are almost back to pre-recession levels.
Among those are new vehicles, a major part of the American retail economy, which explains the fewer oil leak spots in his local Wal-Mart parking lot, Yandle told an audience of about 50 at a meeting of the Oconee Alliance civic and booster organization, where he was the guest speaker.
It’s particularly indicative, Yandle said, that many of the trucks he saw that very morning stopping for coffee at an Oconee County convenience store were being driven by construction workers. “Construction and housing starts are making a comeback,” he said. He predicted housing starts would be back to pre-recession levels by 2016.
Yandle, dean emeritus of Clemson’s College of Business and Behavior Sciences, is a renowned economist who has taught and advised around the world. He has served as executive director of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., and served as senior economist on the President’s Council on Wage and Price Stability from 1976 to 1978.
Most recent economic data brings a note of general pessimism, Yandle said, in that “the year we’re in will look a lot like the year we just left.” But there is a global economic boom in progress with the current world gross domestic product the highest that’s ever been recorded, $78 trillion and, unlike some areas, South Carolina is tapped into it, Yandle said, making the state’s prospects a little brighter than average.
One indicator of this is that state saw a 21.4 percent increase in exports in 2012, Yandle said, second only to Tennessee among neighboring states. He pointed to Greer’s BMW plant and the first plane off the assembly line of Boeing’s new plant in Charleston built for Air India as evidence of South Carolina’s role in the world economy.
The U.S. economy had sustained major blows in recent years, Yandle said, including lingering effects of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks. But no other economy had as much job-creating potential.
Ninety-one percent of the people wanting a job had one, even if it might be temporary underemployment, he added, and even at the best of economic times the number was 94 percent. The numbers mask real-world problems for the unemployed, he said, “but that’s a relatively small percentage from where we are in good times.”
One effect, he added, is that recessions typically lead to more productivity, because less-efficient operations close. As a result, recovery does not always translate into higher employment. Nevertheless, he said, 33 of South Carolina’s 46 counties showed employment growth in 2011 and 2012, Yandle said, Oconee County being one of them. The band of counties showing job growth also shifted in those years from the Lowcountry to the Upstate. Read More.