MIAMI -- The Great Recession ended 32 months ago. But fear about the sturdiness of its recovery persists.
To wit, real domestic growth reached 3.0% in 2010. Decent for a comeback from a painful recession that began in December 2007 and lasted through June 2009, said economic futurist Jeff Thredgold at NICSA’s 30th Annual Conference and Expo.
But in 2011, the growth rate fell, to 1.7%. And that came only after a big surge in the second half of the year, the president of Thredgold Economic Associates noted.
Americans are still trying to recover from losing, in many cases, half of their financial assets in the wake of the credit crisis of 2008. And the continuing high rate of unemployment dampens enthusiasm dramatically.
The economy "has been growing statistically, if not emotionally," Thredgold said. "We've had a recession of confidence over the past two and a half years."
Take the high rate of unemployment, which historically speaking should cost President Barack Obama his job, he said.
No incumbent president has survived re-election when the nation's unemployment rate is 7.2% or higher, he said.
The average unemployment rate of the last three years has been 9.0%. That may be down to 8.3%, he said.
But that does not reflect the 4 million individuals who have given up looking for work.
Three years ago, 66% of the adult population was either working or looking for work. Now, that is down to 63%.
If that 3% was added back, the unemployment rate would be 11.3%.
There are bright spots for the emotionally worn out though:
* The American worker is far more productive than Chinese counterparts. The Chinese economy generates $5.5 trillion worth of goods and services, with 1.3 billion people. The U.S. economy generates $15.3 trillion worth, with 310 million people. Each is 12 times more productive, on average, than his or her counterpart.
* Japan was supposed to dominate the world, just like China, 20 years ago. That was based on the efficiency of its manufacturing and devotion to quality output. But it had an economic bubble. Overenthusiasm in credit and property investment. Now, its debt versus national output is the "largest in the history of the world" and it has lost two decades of growth.
* The U.S. economy has moved from producing modest goods at high prices, to highly competitive and dynamic production of tangible and digital goods and services. It is a leader in pushing competitive economies ahead.
* The U.S. has a "major position" in each of the "seven critical industries of the future." These are technology, transportation, telecommunications, financial services, energy, entertainment and biomedicine.
* The advancing age of 78 million Baby Boomers guarantees growth in three key industries, all of which play to U.S. strengths: health care, financial planning and leisure and entertainment.
* A dark horse for fastest-growing industry, unique to America, over the next few decades: tattoo removal. That forecast, of course, came with a grin.