Board of Economits: sector by sector

See views of the local and national economy from The Times' Board of Economists.

American business rolls on despite Washington meltdown

Despite the best efforts of Washington politicians to cripple U.S. economic growth, American businesses are overcoming all odds to build a sustained recovery. 

LABOR: Joblessness remains too high

LABOR: Joblessness remains too high

Too many people are still out of work, a local labor leader said.

MEDIA: Advertisers show faith

MEDIA: Advertisers show faith

As the economy improves, advertisers are staying loyal to what works, whether that be traditional or new media, said Jennifer Finnerty, Radio One Communications general manager.

MANUFACTURING: Manufacturing continues to tick up

MANUFACTURING: Manufacturing continues to tick up

The manufacturing sector continues to improve, and the steel industry in particular has been buoyed by strong auto sales, Berlin Metals president Roy Berlin said.

SMALL RETAIL: Getting in that holiday spirit

SMALL RETAIL: Getting in that holiday spirit

Small retailers are already preparing for the holiday season, while still striving to catch the last of summer and back-to-school shoppers.

CONSTRUCTION: Commercial projects picking up the slack

CONSTRUCTION: Commercial projects picking up the slack

The base of activity in Northwest Indiana's construction market is broadening, with residential and commercial activity now rebounding after years of lackluster performance.

HEALTH CARE: Health care law continues to confuse

HEALTH CARE: Health care law continues to confuse

Continued confusion about the implementation and impact of the Affordable Care Act leaves unanswered questions about what the legislation, also known as Obamacare, means for the health care industry.

RETAIL: Holiday season looking up in retail

RETAIL: Holiday season looking up in retail

A raised debt ceiling did more than end a federal government shutdown. It should ease people's minds as they do their holiday shopping.

COMMERCE: Economic development signal improved sector health

COMMERCE: Economic development signal improved sector health

With announcements of economic development coming to Porter County, Rex Richards can't help but be optimistic about the health of that corner of the Region.

UTILITIES: Enviro regs affecting energy landscape

UTILITIES: Enviro regs affecting energy landscape

Natural gas prices continue to trade within moderate ranges, despite some fears demand from gas-fired electric generating plants might drive up prices during the summer.

NONPROFITS: Philanthropic groups await fourth quarter bump

NONPROFITS: Philanthropic groups await fourth quarter bump

Last quarter indications show improvement may be on the horizon in the nonprofit sector.

AUTOMOTIVE: Pickup, car truck sales were hot until last few weeks

AUTOMOTIVE: Pickup, car truck sales were hot until last few weeks

Auto dealers had been enjoying the highest sales since 2007 until the government shutdown paralyzed many consumers with uncertainty, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group.

CONSUMERS: Consumer confidence up in third quarter

CONSUMERS: Consumer confidence up in third quarter

Consumer spending, credit card debt and consumer confidence held steady regionally in the third quarter of 2013, and large retailers are cautiously optimistic the fourth quarter will hold steady with holiday buying, said Connie Kann, area director of the Better Business Bureau.

GOVERNMENT: All eyes turn to Lake Co. income tax

Lake County's last-in-the-state local income tax is now nicking wage earners' paychecks, but they will get something back for their money.

ENTERTAINMENT: Despite economy, entertainment flourishes

ENTERTAINMENT: Despite economy, entertainment flourishes

A soft economy and government stability worries may actually bolster attendance at shows, concerts and movies.

INVESTMENTS: Markets had strong 3Q, but shutdown drags on growth

INVESTMENTS: Markets had strong 3Q, but shutdown drags on growth

Major financial markets have been performing well, but the shutdown could slow the pace of growth, a Northwest Indiana investment adviser said.

RESTAURANTS: Obamacare uncertainties grow

RESTAURANTS: Obamacare uncertainties grow

Despite a one-year reprieve for small businesses, Obamacare remains a looming uncertainty for restaurants and others.

REAL ESTATE: Congress only threat to "a good run"

REAL ESTATE: Congress only threat to "a good run"

Northwest Indiana home sales have increased on a year-over-year basis for 27 straight months due to better consumer confidence, increased employment and low interest rates.

BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Implications of health legislation remains unknown

BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Implications of health legislation remains unknown

The continued uncertainty shrouding the Affordable Care Act is leaving many in the health care industry wondering what comes next.

GROCERY: Grocery stores catering more toward customers who want healthy food

GROCERY: Grocery stores catering more toward customers who want healthy food

Grocery stores are working to remain relevant to customers, such as by offering more natural foods, said Stack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson.

AGRICULTURE: Fall brings variable yields for farmers

AGRICULTURE: Fall brings variable yields for farmers

With autumn comes harvest, and local yields have been variable.

BANKING: Banks faring better, but consolidating more

BANKING: Banks faring better, but consolidating more

The banking sector has been improving gradually over the last couple years, and should continue to make positive gains, a Northwest Indiana banker said.

FUEL: Prices have fallen but demand still flat

FUEL: Prices have fallen but demand still flat

Gas consumption has been flat in Northwest Indiana though prices have come down from the high $3 range, said Tom Collins, the chief executive officer of fuel distributor and retailer Luke Oil.

EDUCATION: Enrollments will cool as economy heats up

EDUCATION: Enrollments will cool as economy heats up

Enrollments at Indiana University Northwest increased again this fall, but the Gary school seems to be the exception, according to Micah Pollack, Indiana University Northwest professor of economics.

MANUFACTURING: Factories expect to see more growth in 2014

MANUFACTURING: Factories expect to see more growth in 2014

Manufacturing has been doing fairly well, and should see continued strength going into 2014, Berlin Metals president Roy Berlin said.

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales hit their highest point since 2007 last year

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales hit their highest point since 2007 last year

Automakers sold about 15.6 million cars last year, the highest number since 2007, when 16.1 million units were sold.

BANKING: Banks doing well despite decline in refinancing

BANKING: Banks doing well despite decline in refinancing

The banking sector remains strong despite in dip in mortgage activity and a wave of consolidations, a Northwest Indiana banker said.

INVESTMENTS: U.S. stocks delivered best returns in more than a decade

INVESTMENTS: U.S. stocks delivered best returns in more than a decade

Investors had reason to celebrate, as last year U.S. stocks posted their best year since 1997.

GROCERY: Northwest Indiana market stable, but Illinois shoppers more demanding

GROCERY: Northwest Indiana market stable, but Illinois shoppers more demanding

Stack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said grocery stores have been doing well, but depend on a healthy economy.

LABOR: Workers missing out on economic gains

LABOR: Workers missing out on economic gains

The economy is recovering, but the wealth that has been generated is not being shared widely, a local labor leader said.

MANUFACTURING: Shipments rising despite weather, logistical challenges

MANUFACTURING: Shipments rising despite weather, logistical challenges

A Hammond service center, which is one of the largest distributors of tin mill and coated steel products, is starting to see 5 to 6 percent increases in sales. 

BANKING: Interest rates remain low, but are bound to rise

BANKING: Interest rates remain low, but are bound to rise

Interest rates remain low, making it an ideal time for businesses to borrow money to expand or acquire other companies, said Horizon Bank executive vice president David Rose.

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales up despite recalls

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales up despite recalls

Heavy snowfall and bone-chilling cold hampered auto sales in January and February, but sales are still strong, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group, which operates Chevrolet dealerships in Hammond and Lowell.

INVESTMENTS: Markets holding up well, expected to grow

INVESTMENTS: Markets holding up well, expected to grow

The stock market had an incredible year last year and started 2014 with a bang, said Mark Ennes, a wealth management adviser for the Merrill Lynch's Merrillville office.

GROCERY: Industry doing well in spite of increased competition

GROCERY: Industry doing well in spite of increased competition

The grocery industry is prospering, even though the greater Chicago market is crowded with competition, Strack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said. 

GROCERY: Sector grapples with high unemployment, food stamp cuts

GROCERY: Sector grapples with high unemployment, food stamp cuts

The grocery industry is doing well, but Strack and Van Til stores are faring better in South Lake County, where the unemployment is lower than it is in the northern cities or Illinois.

AUTOMOTIVE: Dealerships busy with recalls, looking to retain customers

AUTOMOTIVE: Dealerships busy with recalls, looking to retain customers

Auto sales have been pretty good as Chevrolet continues its run as the top-selling vehicle brand in Chicagoland, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group, which operates Chevrolet dealerships in Hammond and Lowell.

INVESTMENTS: Stocks up, capital expenditures expected

INVESTMENTS: Stocks up, capital expenditures expected

Stock prices have been hitting all-time highs despite global uncertainties, said Mark Ennes, a wealth management adviser for the Merrill Lynch's Merrillville office.

MANUFACTURING: Industry's fortunes mirror GDP

MANUFACTURING: Industry's fortunes mirror GDP

Manufacturing continues the slow, steady improvement that has characterized the sector over the last few years, Berlin Metals President Boy Berlin said.

BANKING: Mortgage lending, home prices rising

BANKING: Mortgage lending, home prices rising

The economy came out of its winter hibernation during the second quarter as consumer confidence reached the highest point since 2007, Horizon Bank Executive Vice President David Rose said.

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