Let's talk about the economy. Two-thirds of adults in the United States say the economy is good or excellent and 69 pct say it will only get better. Hooray! That is something we all want to hear. Other positive statistics sited in the USA Today article are that unem-ployment is at 4.6 pct, equaling the 24-year low reached in November. Consumer prices rose 1.7 pct last year, keeping inflation at the lowest levels in a generation. How long is a generation?
Other wonderful news on the consumer level is that 3.2 million jobs were added last year and hourly wages rose four pct. Also, the stock market has risen 300 pct since the beginning of the expansion.
Much of this reflects what is happening in the finishing industry as well. The Surface Finishing Marketing Research Board report shows that job shop sales in 1997 versus 1996 were up 69.5 pct, down 17.5 pct and about the same for 13 pct of the survey respondents.
These job shops also have a positive outlook for 1998 and the long term. Seventy-nine pct said they believe sales will be up this year, whereas only five pct believe they will go down. However, over the long term 89.4 pct believe sales will rise and only three pct believe they will decline. From where is all this optimism coming?
I certainly do not think it stems from the same place Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan thinks it does. He claims it is the "Lewinsky Bubble." He claims that the scandal between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky made people more optimistic because it forced them to think about the economy. Hey, that's the first thing I think about when I hear someone is having an affair.
I am not much on predictions or even very knowledgeable about the economy or the stock market. However, it is encouraging to have both my country and the industry I serve optimistic about the future.
More information about the finishing industry, its economics, its demographics and its operations can be found in the Surface Finishing Market Research Board Report. It is available for $250 or if you are a member of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, the National Association of Metal Finishers or the Metal Finishing Suppliers Association, the cost is $125. Contact the association or me for more information.