A pause or a dip?

The economic numbers recently haven’t been good. Job growth has sputtered. Home prices are still falling. And consumers are feeling less confident. About the only good news is that gas prices have backed off some, although they’re still well above $3 a gallon. Some fear we could be headed into another recession. Listen to what N.C. State University economist Mike Walden has to say.

“Well, of course, some people … say we never left the recession, although you can make a strong argument that we did, because we actually have had economic growth and job growth — albeit slow — over the last now almost two years.

“So, the growth rate of the economy is still positive. The last readings show we were growing just shy of 2 percent. That’s very, very slow. Some economists are saying we’ll probably stay at that level maybe a wee bit more. But as long as that growth rate is positive, that means we’re out of a recession.

“Now the downside, of course, of a very slow growth rate — besides the fact that generally means slow job … growth rate — is that it doesn’t take much to knock us off of that.

“So, if we had some unexpected flare up in problems around the world or, for example, a hurricane that really knocked out the supply of gas and gas prices really soared, we could go back to negative growth.

“The big problems right now, I think, that are dragging the economy — apart from those unknowns — are, number one, the housing market … (housing prices still going down) and the fact that households are still carrying too much debt. And they realize that, and they’ve been paying down on debt. But if they pay down on debt, that means they’re not going to spend.”

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