All indications are that 2015 will be the year when the pall that has overshadowed our economy will finally lift. The Great Recession, starting in 2007, hit the world hard -- and while European countries remain in the doldrums, the American economy is pulling itself up by the bootstraps of consumer spending. The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research states that the recession ended in June 2009. While that was really good, it didn’t match the mood of the country and didn’t inspire consumers to spend. Rather, they stayed in hoarding mode. However, today there are good signs all around, the main one is the price of gas.
In 2007, gas prices for regular unleaded started to rise from $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon by midyear 2008. Prices have fallen in the last month from $2.62 to -- at some locations in Middle Georgia -- to $2.08 a gallon, and it’s still falling. Forecasters say low gas prices will be around for a while.
The low fuel prices are good news, at least for America, on the international stage. Russia, Venezuela, Iran and ISIS depend on high oil prices to fuel their economies. Crude oil that was going for more than $100 a barrel near the beginning of 2014, according to the New York Mercantile Exchange, hit $57 in mid-December. Low oil prices may make Russian President Vladimir Potin put his shirt back on. According to the Associated Press, the ruble has been the worst performing currency this year along with the Ukrainian hryvnia, having lost nearly half of its value against the dollar.
Unemployment is another bright spot. In January 2009, 10 percent of the American workforce was unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment remained at or near that level until January 2011 when it started a gradual descent. The unemployment rate, as we head into 2015, is 5.8 percent. Georgia’s rate remains above the national average at 7.2 percent, but in the Metro Macon area, the unemployment rate is 6.9 percent and according to the Georgia Department of Labor, the area added 1,200 jobs in November.
Wall Street has recovered nicely from its low point in March of 2009 when the Dow Jones Industrial Averages dipped to 6,600. The Dow now sits at more than 18,000. And government statistics show that we are experiencing the fastest rate of growth since 2003 and the inflation devil is nowhere to be found.
Our New Year’s wish for our country is that we continue to grow and regain the prosperity so many had lost since 2007. Maybe the long winter of our discontent is finally over.