State of the U.S. economy better, not greatBy CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
and PAUL WISEMAN
The Associated Press | February 13,2013AP FILE PHOTO
In this Jan. 24, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy, the expected focus of Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, is much healthier than it was four years ago. Yet growth remains slow and unemployment high.
In early 2009, the U.S. economy was in the midst of a full-blown panic sparked by the collapse of a housing bubble.
Companies were slashing jobs. The unemployment rate was surging. Auto sales in January 2009 had reached a 26-year low.
“You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis,” President Barack Obama said in his first State of the Union-style address in February 2009.
The numbers were frightening.
Employers cut 794,000 jobs in January 2009 and 4.5 million from November 2008 through April 2009.
Home prices plunged 19 percent in the 12 months that ended in January 2009. Eventually, they fell by a third overall before bottoming in late 2011.
Perhaps the clearest barometer of the pain was soaring unemployment.
The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in January 2009, just below the current 7.9 percent. But only two months later, in March 2009, it was nearly a full point higher — 8.7 percent. By October, it had peaked at 10 percent.
The recovery has been agonizingly slow. Consumers have been wary about spending after piling up debt in the mid-2000s. Local governments, squeezed by tight budgets, have cut 560,000 jobs in four years.
And until recently, an anemic housing market discouraged the home construction that in past economic recoveries had powered growth.
Now, companies are hiring modestly but steadily. Employers added an average of 181,000 jobs a month in 2012 and 175,000 in 2011. Still, unemployment remains far higher than the 5 percent to 6 percent that economists regard as normal.
But home prices are finally rebounding as sales and housing starts have recovered. And Americans are buying cars again.
“During the last four years, the economy has stabilized,” says economist Sung Won Sohn of California State University Channel Islands.
What has happened to the economy since 2009 likely would have happened whoever occupied the White House, Sohn says.
“We tend to give a lot of credit or blame (for the economy) to the incumbent president,” he says. “The fact of the matter is, the U.S. economy is like an aircraft carrier. You can turn it around but not on a dime.”MORE IN National / World BusinessWASHINGTON — The U.S. economy powered its way to a respectable growth rate of 3. Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1618, English author, poet, soldier, adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded for conspiring to overthrow King James I, but more likely to mollify offenses to Spain. His executioner has to implore him for silence.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1492, Italian explorer, admiral of the ocean sea, Christopher Columbus, sailing for the Spanish crown, 'discovers' Cuba; on this day in 1964, U.S. officials deny American involvement in bombing North Vietnam.
- Video: Fire engulfs house on Pine Street
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1936, Mrs. Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson, mistress of King Edward VIII, is granted her second divorce, enabling her to marry the king. The government, the Church of England and the London Times have another idea.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: V-2 No. 13, launched this day in 1946 from White Sands, New Mexico, takes first photographs of Earth from the edge of the planet's outer atmosphere; 1947: Walt Disney testifies before HUAC, names employees he says are communists.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Vermont's brand discussed at Killington, state's attorney candidates Marc Brierre and Rose Kennedy profiled, Curtis reports about Rutland police chief's new job, and four arrested, charged for heroin, crack sales.