If you’re wondering how the economy’s doing, here’s what top news outlets are reporting: “U.S. GDP Fizzles in the fourth quarter” (Marketwatch.com); “Economy grinds to a halt in last quarter 2015” (Money.CNN.com).
But there’s good news: Q1 2016 GDP is projected to be in the 2% range, unlike the two previous first quarters in 2014 and 2015, which were both negative. It’s asking a lot of the other three quarters to put together a good year when you start out in the hole.
One of the ways I take the pulse of the Main Street economy is through our weekly online poll. Recently we asked this question: “Halfway through the 1st quarter, how’s the local economy producing sales for you?” When I compare the responses we got this time to similar questions over the past four or five years, I see movement toward the middle from the top and bottom. Let me explain.
The top group, 13% reporting sales as “great,” is lower than past polls, which have been consistently closer to 25%. The bottom group, who are “in trouble,” came in at 3%, down from around 15%.
Then we have the two in the middle: Those who said their sales volume was off represents about a third of our sample, a little higher before; and those who reported sales as good but not great, increased to half of our responses, up from about 35% in the past. By the way, our poll tracks very closely to the January NFIB Small Business Index and a new AICPA survey.
Our latest measurement reflects the current condition of Main Street businesses: fewer are doing great, while the “just okay” and “not quite as good” are increasing, with the bottom group succumbing to the insidious condition CNSNews.com just reported as a “record 1o years with the U.S. economy less than 3%.”
With a decade of stagnation, the last seven years of which can be attributed to the anti-business rhetoric and policies of the Obama administration, any performance improvement by small firms is attributed to better management practices and the kind of dint of will only found on Main Street.
Economists I regard are predicting 2016 GDP growth of about 2.5%. With the condition of the global economic and geo-political challenges, achieving this level of annual growth will be largely on the backs of the American consumer and the discipline – past and present – of millions of Main Street small businesses.
Here’s good news no one else is talking about: When the economy finally does convert from our 10-year winter of discontent to an actual expansion, surviving small businesses will be so organizationally and financially sound that they will be set to make more profits than anyone has ever seen.
Write this on a rock … But only those who survive.