The latest Federal Reserve data – including some specifically for our part of the country – suggest that the end of the year-and-a-half-old recession could be within sight.

Is the worst over?

The latest Federal Reserve data – including some specifically for our part of the country – suggest that the end of the year-and-a-half-old recession could be within sight.

That’s pretty tentative, but the Fed sees “further signs of stabilization” in the part of the country that includes Kansas City and much of the Plains to the west. Still, it’s a mixed bag, as outlined in the Kansas City Federal Reserve “beige book” report, which is issued eight times a year. One report came out this week, saying:

Retailers are doing better, but they’re selling more home furnishings and appliances – fix-up things – but not so many big-ticket items. Restaurants are raising prices even as fewer people are going out to eat and ordering less when they do. Auto dealers are selling more – more small cars and used cars, that is. Manufacturers are hanging in there but “did not expect to hire new workers for many months.” Home sales seem to be improving, again in the lower and middle parts of the market. Commercial real estate continues to weaken and “few commercial real estate firms expected a recovery by the end of 2010.”


That snapshot lines up with the national picture painted by the Fed: Signs of growing stability in economic activity but at lower levels than were seen a year or more ago. Is this the new normal?

It still comes back to jobs. Experts continually point out that even if the economy starts showing renewed growth soon, unemployment is expected to keep rising for several more months. In fact, the consensus seems to be that joblessness at the end of 2010 will have come back down to about where it stands now – 9.3 percent in Missouri and 9.5 percent nationwide. That makes consumers nervous, and that’s the underlying problem.