Is the recession over?

I’ve been reading a lot of snippets that suggest that the answer to that question may be “yes”.

The OECD, which measures “leading indicators,” suggests improvement is on the way:

Some of the world’s leading economies showed tangible improvement in May … They suggested many major economies — including the U.S., the euro zone and China — could end their declines later this year. Overall, the OECD lead indicator rose by 0.8 point to 94, the sharpest rise this year, but it was still down 7.3 points from May 2008. The indicators are designed to indicate turning points in economic activity about six months in advance, and the calcuations are based on a wide variety of data.

This article suggests that “an increase in exports bodes well for growth”:

Tentative signs of life in global trade are emerging, buoying growth forecasts in the U.S. and China, two of the world’s most important economies. U.S. exports grew in May, while imports fell, helping to narrow the trade deficit to its lowest level in nearly nine years. The report prompted economists to revise up their estimates of second-quarter gross domestic product. Some even suggested the economy might have grown slightly in the second quarter. “It’s a very good sign for GDP,” says Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics in Toronto. “The economy didn’t shrink by much in the second quarter, and there’s an outside chance it recorded a gain.” Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers increased its second-quarter GDP forecast from minus 1.6% to plus 0.2% on the news. New figures from China offered more support for the prospect that the massive drop in global trade is abating. Exports in June fell 21.4% from a year earlier, a smaller drop than May’s 26% decline, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing official data.

That’s not huge, but it’s more in the right direction.

Still, I think everyone acknowledges that there are drags on the economy. The WSJ’s David Wessel suggests the recovery will be a painful (i.e., “jobless” one):

All signs point to a recovery so painful that many Americans may not realize when it finally arrives. There are signs the recession may end in coming months, but the U.S. economy’s recovery is likely to be so painfully slow that many won’t feel the difference. First, the good news. Auto sales and housing starts have fallen so low that they are unlikely to fall further, hence the talk of “stabilization” in those big, beleaguered industries. The mountain of unsold goods in factories, warehouses and stores, though still large, is shrinking. That eventually will lead manufacturers to stop reducing production and laying off workers. U.S. exports perked up in May. Credit markets are beginning to heal. Big companies are selling bonds. Even banks are selling new shares of stock. “Right now, we’re like a patient whose condition has stabilized and whose fever is just starting to come down,” Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said recently.

But the job market remains awful. In December 2008, forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predicted the jobless rate would hit what then seemed a very high 8.1% at the end of 2009. Surveyed again this past week, forecasters now anticipate year-end unemployment of 10%. That suggests 775,000 more Americans will join the ranks of the jobless in the next six months.

On balance, though, I think that the signs are very hopeful that my own job search is going to be a good one.

Did executives “do the right thing”?

As the economy improves, they may need to prove themselves.

Mike Neiss of TomPeters.com has observed that he’s hearing “a much more positive message” from client companies, in that “we’ve turned the corner” or “the worst is behind us.” That’s the good news.

But then he asks, “did the strategies put in place to deal with the economic downturn make [your company] more capable of producing excellence in the future?

That’s probably not such good news for companies that have let go a tremendous amount of talent.

One result that he foresees:

[E]xecutives may have to prove their competence to the workforce—who paid some prices in the downturn. Many executives have been using the “economy” as the reason for poor performance, but my coffee chats with their employees lead me to believe that the rank and file aren’t totally buying that. It is important that the road forward is seen as doable by the employees in an organization, and that these workers believe that the current executive team can lead them to success.

On the other hand, it creates new opportunities for some of us who are now “out there.”

More evidence of economic improvement

The Wall Street Journal this morning reported on an unmistakable sign that the global economy is showing signs of life:

NEW DELHI — Car sales in India rose for the fourth straight month in May as gains from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. helped nullify a decline in sales at automakers such as Hyundai Motor Co. and Tata Motors Ltd.

…a series of federal government measures such as tax cuts have helped increase sales in recent months.

How long that will take to ripple around the would could be another matter.