The Times Board of Economists

Economic signs point up, but recovery lags

2012-10-21T00:00:00Z 2013-12-18T16:23:29Z Economic signs point up, but recovery lagsBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

A number of economic indicators are pointing upward, but that is not translating into quick gains for the economy in Northwest Indiana or the nation as a whole, according to members of the Times Board of Economists.

Retailers and others continue to wait and wait for that big boost in sales that would come with a true recovery.

"I think we are doing maybe a pinch better," said Rosemary De St. Jean, owner of Rosemary's Heritage Flowers, representing small retailers. "But in the next couple of years it has to get quite a bit better."

That was the experience of business leaders generally at the quarterly Times Board of Economists meeting Oct. 11 at Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville.

In the Board of Economists' survey, the average rating for the performance of the local economy in the last three months fell to 5.9 from 6.3 at the last meeting in May. The rating for members' individual sectors fell to an average of 5.9 from 6.4 percent in May.

Their optimism for three months from now and a year from now also fell, although by a lesser amount.

Continuing problems in Europe and the slowing of growth in the Chinese economy are probably two of the biggest culprits behind the slowdown in the steel industry, said Roy Berlin, president of Berlin Metals.

The first seven months of the year were good for steel processors and then there was a perceptible slowdown starting in August, Berlin said.

The lack of performance now and the lack of enthusiasm for the future comes despite a number of recent economic readings that point to an upturn.

Consumer confidence took a big leap upward to 78.3 in September according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. A home builder's confidence index for the same month rose to its highest reading since June 2006. And U.S. retail sales notched their biggest gains in two years in September and August.

The local construction industry is being buoyed by large industrial projects, according to William Hasse III, president of Hasse Construction. But mainstays of the construction industry in normal times, such as commercial construction and home building, remain weak, he said.

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