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Archive for the 'Economy: National and Global' Category

Results of my 2014 Crystal Ball Predictions

Here are the results of my 2014 predictions, what happened and my score.

Prediction: Five years after the Great Recession ended, the economy will average less than 3% growth. Actual: Although surging, 2014 GDP will be about 2.3%. Plus 1.

Prediction: Even with a slightly improved economy, small business (SB) optimism levels will still be below the NFIB Index’s 41-year average of 100 points. Actual: NFIB Index 2014 SB optimism is below 95 points. Unfortunately, plus 1.

Prediction: Continued uncertainty for the sixth straight year will make SBs reluctant to invest and borrow money. ActualNFIB Index shows small businesses loan demand and investing at record low levels. Plus 1.

Prediction: Uncertainty about Obamacare’s impact will cause SBs to continue hiring reluctance. Actual: NFIB and other surveys shows SB hiring still negligible. Plus 1.

Prediction: Obamacare will continue to be an economic headwind in 2014. Actual: Owners and managers continue to identify Obamacare as a significant negative factor in business decisions. Plus 1.

Prediction: More significant than the media favorite U3 unemployment rate, the employment participation rate, currently 63%, will remain at a 38-year (Carter) record low. Actual: Current labor participation is 62.8%. Plus 1.

Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr.com

Photo by Garry Knight on Flickr.com


Prediction: The Fed will discontinue unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) that infused trillions of dollars into Wall Street since 2008 without benefiting Main Street. Actual: Fed ended QE in October. Plus 1.

Prediction: A combination of disruptions will produce a challenging year for Wall StreetActual: Nothing seems to impede the madness of Wall Street crowds. Can you say bubble? Minus 1.

Prediction: Obamacare’s constitutionality will be challenged by many lawsuits. Actual: Currently 104 lawsuits have been filed against Obamacare, including one before the Supreme Court. Plus 1.

Prediction: Democrats running for re-election in 2014 will run from the president. Actual: No Democrat wanted Mr. Obama anywhere near their campaign, but it still didn’t help. Plus 1.

Prediction: The GOP will regain control of the Senate and maintain a majority in the House in November. Actual: Republicans swept almost everything, from the Senator down to dog catcher at the local level. Plus 1.

Prediction: President Obama will prevail on immigration but will lose on minimum wage. Actual: Immigration win by Obama’s executive order but no minimum wage increase. Plus 1.

Prediction: Hillary Clinton will not announce her 2016 presidential intentions before the mid-term elections. Actual: Everyone knows she’s running; she just hasn’t announced yet. Plus 1.

Prediction: Auburn will defeat Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. Actual: Great game, but the Noles won 34-31. Minus 1.

Write this on a rock …

This year I’m 12 for 14, or 86%, taking my 14-year record to 73% (’08 was a rough year).

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

RESULTS: How is your business tracking in the 4th quarter?

The Question:

With one month to go, how is your business tracking in the 4th quarter?

15% - Way ahead of last year’s sales or budget
46% - A little bit better that last year
18% - About the same as last year
21% - Worse that last year
Jim’s Comments:
When we asked a similar question in early September, 65% of you said things were trending well for the end of the year. As you can see, our new poll question on the economy prompted just short of that response, at 61%.  And just as we’ve seen for almost six years, about one-fifth of small businesses are still struggling.
There are two things that might be making the economy trend upward:

1. Republicans will be in control of both houses of Congress for the next two years. Most people who make payroll consider a GOP-led Congress to be an improvement if for no other reason than they’re not anti-business.

2. Gas prices are down almost a dollar from a year ago. That’s like a huge tax cut for the folks on both sides of the cash register.

Here’s hoping the winter isn’t too bad and we can carry some momentum into next year.

RESULTS: What’s your experience with consumer confidence during the holidays

The Question: Photo credit to Spokesman
Some surveys indicate improving consumer confidence going into the holidays. What’s your current experience?

8% - Definitely increased customer activity and sales.
22% - Increased customer activity with some increase sales
56% - Customer activity and sales are about the same so far
14% - Our customer activity and sales have decreased.

Jim’s Comments:
We’ve been polling small business owners about the economy about four times a year since the Great Recession ended, and we’ve never been able to get more than a third of our respondents to say their economy was doing good or great. As you can see, last week’s poll was no different. Only about 30% said things were somewhat or definitely improving, with the other 70% saying the economy they saw was about the same or worse.
With the results of the recent election changing the power dynamic in Washington, it will be interesting to see if the response to this question will change in a few months. One thing is for sure, with the GOP in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it will now be clear who to blame about any political issues that might negatively impact the economy. With the lines drawn as they now are, there’s no place to hide.

RESULTS: How do you feel about the taxes you pay?

The Question:
With the tax filling extension date coming this week, how do you feel about the taxes you pay?

69% - We pay too much in taxes, especially for what we get.
6% - We pay a lot of taxes, but it’s probably about right.
8% - Since we’re not profitable, we don’t play a lot of taxes.
17% - I would love to have enough profit to worry about taxes.

Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, almost 70% of our sample think we’re not getting an acceptable ROI on our tax dollars. Which is understandable, since the taxes small businesses pay represents precious capital that can’t be invested in the business. I’m going to have more to say about this in next week’s Feature Article.

Stay tuned and thanks for participating.  And be sure to take our new poll.

Small business can’t fund an economic expansion alone

How’s the economy going?

In my long career, it’s hard to imagine a time when you could get as many different answers to this question.

We know the answer if we’re talking to any of the millions of chronically unemployed or under-employed; they’re not represented in the misleading U3 unemployment index used by politicians and the media. And the same goes for the millions who were forced to transition from unemployment to early retirement, disability or welfare.

Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Photo courtesy of morgueFile

How about small business owners? Recently we asked them this question: How is the economy looking for you over the last third of 2014? Almost two-thirds of our respondents allowed they like what they see. That’s an improvement from polls we’ve conducted over the past couple of years when barely half expressed optimism.

Are small businesses finally feeling more confident about the economy? For generations Wall Street was accepted as a leading indicator of the economy; today it’s merely an indicator of itself.  I consider Main Street to be the more relevant economic indicator so this increased optimism is good news — at least until Wall Street and Washington do something to derail all of our hard work, like the last financial crisis they created together.

In a follow-up poll we asked small business owners how they would fund their next growth opportunity. Almost half reported they would grow organically with retained earnings (profits) and current cash flow. And consistent with previous polls by myself and others, only three percent chose the historical small business funding source: a bank loan.

Ironically, this growth-by-bootstrapping response is a silver lining of the financial crisis cloud. As I predicted in 2009, in order for small businesses to survive the Great Recession they had to operate more efficiently while reducing debt, which produced two very important financial conditions: 1) a better cash position and 2) more profit. Consequently, it’s not surprising when almost 50% of respondents to this poll reported the ability to capitalize future growth with in-house resources.

Unfortunately, small business retained earnings alone won’t take the economy from moribund recovery to robust expansion. That will require Corporate America to stop hoarding cash and start investing in the economy. The question is, when will Wall Street let them?

Write this on a rock … Small business alone can’t fund an economic expansion.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

RESULTS: How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

The Question:
How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

36% - This year has been great and we plan to finish strong.
29% - This hasn’t been a great year, but it looks like we’ll finish strong
14% -  We started out well, but the rest of the year doesn’t look so good.
21% - We’re not going to have a good year, first half or last half.

Jim’s Comments:
Comparing our poll this week to similar results over the past couple of years, it actually looks like small business owners are finally feeling more confident about the economy. In previous polls we’ve barely gotten half of our audience to say they were optimistic about the next few months. But this week almost two-thirds like what they see for the last third of the year.

As you know, I now consider Main Street, not Wall Street, to be the leading indicator of the economy. If I’m right, this poll response is good news we can count on–at least unless Wall Street and/or Washington does something stupid to derail all of our hard work.