Officially, the brutal recession is over. But many of its effects remain — including joblessness and hesitancy by employers to expand and by consumers to spend. When will it really be over? In this series, Texas Enterprise staff writer Rob Heidrick talks to experts at the McCombs School of Business about how recovery is measured and what it would take to get the economy moving again. A related video by Kris Maxwell explores the local effects of the recession and recovery, from the perspective of the food trailer business in Austin.
Is It a Recovery Yet?
The Great Recession officially came to an end in the summer of 2009. Since that time, the economy has been in a period of expansion and recovery, yet many of the nation's financial woes continue. With many Americans still out of work and businesses waiting to return to pre-recession profitability, the search is on for a more practical way to measure the progress of the recovery.
Before a recovery can build momentum, consumers have to believe the economy is truly on the upswing. Better yet, they need to directly participate in the upswing by reaching into their wallets. Consumer confidence has dropped off in the last three years, but there are signs that post-recession consumers are becoming more optimistic, even if more cautious.
The federal government’s role in creating new economic policy has been embroiled in controversy, as officials strain to find a balance between stimulating the economy and controlling spending. The public wants stimulus spending to be done quickly but also thoughtfully, a paradox that makes the recovery process even more complex. The government's decisions about how to prop up emerging industries, insolvent banks, and other critical institutions is likely to shape the country's economic destiny going forward.
There are many uncertainties about how the business world will be changed by the recession. Corporate leaders are working more closely with the government, more companies are embracing globalization, and domestic innovation appears to be reinvigorated. However, with a slow job market and the return of big Wall Street bonuses, there are signs that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Some of the largest spending programs in the federal budget are also the most difficult to cut from. For reasons both practical and political, spending in these categories continues to grow even as the nation faces what many consider to be a dire financial forecast.
To get a street-level view of the economy, we headed out to the actual streets of Austin TX, where a booming business in mobile food vending shows signs of a healthy (and tasty) recovery in progress.