Friday, December 11, 2009

Your fever is a little less today 

That's a variation of a line I used on a reporter today discussing a local unemployment insurance claims, but it would also apply to the retail sales figures released this morning. Yes, they are up 1.3% over the previous month and 1.9% over a year ago. A year ago, however, was hideous. Dig down just a little bit and you find the first 11 months of 2009 are 7.4% below the first 11 of 2008, which wasn't exactly good times. Remember as well that the advance number you are looking at has a lot of estimation in it -- it guesses at car sales, department stores, etc. Gas prices drove up their sales quite a bit in the last month as well. Even net those things, however, if there's not a significant revision that's two months up (and perhaps four if you could net out the effect of Cash for Clunkers.)

So it's better, but off a base that's so low that a little better isn't good enough. If you think of there being a separate phase of recovery before you get to expansion (off a business cycle trough) I might say recovery is beginning. But calling it expansion seems a little much.

I'm still waiting on employment and disposable personal income net of government transfers to make up my mind on the recession's end.