For the past half-dozen years, betting on economic optimism has been an easy way to look dumb. From “green shoots” to “Recovery Summer” to “Recovery Winter,” every hope that our fate is for anything kinder than a long, slow, grinding slog to quasi-normalcy has proved ill-founded. But maybe the latest optimistic signs are real. Perhaps — to forestall the curse of fate by naming it — This Time Is Different?
The positive signs, for those of you who ignored them, include a surprisingly positive report on third-quarter GDP growth yesterday, followed by a surprisingly positive report today. Jobs reports tend to have wild, bouncy swings that get ironed out later, but the most positive feature of today’s report may be that the ironing out of previous reports is itself positive: In addition to adding an estimated 200,000 jobs last month, jobs grew by 60,000 more than previously reported in August and September.
The final piece of potential good news is political. Both parties in Congress seem ready to strike a budget deal that cancels a year or two of budget sequestration, which has already held back the recovery. Government at all levels has spent the past several years de-stimulating the economy through deep spending cuts. New stimulus spending to bring down the unemployment rate quickly is off the table, even though it should be on, but the era of anti-stimulus may finally be ending.