Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
Lead Indicators of San Diego Economy as Gloomy as Ever
Pundits are desperately looking for positive signs for the national economy, but San Diego can't offer any. The lead indicators of the San Diego economy, compiled by Alan Gin of the University of San Diego, continue the dismal drumbeat. The number for February was 103. That compared with 105.8 for January, 108.1 for December and 110.6 for November. This February's 103 was down from 124.4 in February of last year and 139.2 in February of 2007. This February, all the individual components were negative: building permits, initial unemployment claims, stock prices, consumer confidence, help wanted advertising, and the national economy. National numbers have recently been slightly better -- for example, retail sales and housing numbers have been better than expected. Those numbers, combined with Treasury Secretary Geithner's bribing of Wall Street to take toxic assets off banks' books without any risk, have helped ignite a stock market rally. However, the really important national numbers remain gloomy. The Labor Department reported today (March 26) that the number of people collecting state unemployment benefits for the most recent week jumped by 122,000 to a record 5.56 million, seasonally adjusted. Nearly 15% of the workforce is unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged from job-hunting. The U.S. economy contracted at a 6.3% annual rate in 2008's fourth quarter, the most violent contraction since 1982 and the third largest in 50 years. The current quarter is expected to shrink by an annual rate of 5.1%. That means the economy would contract by more than 4% for two straight quarters for the first time since 1947. Commentators, looking for ways to explain the recent stock market rally, thought the 6.3% plunge was encouraging because economists expected worse.