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Five reasons to worry — or not — about Great Recession Part II

It feels like 2008 all over again.

Not just because the Tampa Bay Rays defied baseball betmakers with a surprising push into the postseason.

We're talking about those unsettling fiscal memories of a mere three years ago.

Once more, the stock market is unhinged with triple-digit swings in the Dow nearly every day; some bellwether companies like FedEx are cutting profit predictions; and many consumers with disposable income have turned uber-cautious again.

The Economic Cycle Research Institute, whose chief purpose is to predict the timing of recessions and recoveries, told clients last week that another recession starting this fall is inevitable.

Still, what happens the next few months could prove the difference between Florida building on a slow recovery or sliding into a deeper funk.

Five reasons we may be entering another recession …

• Europe could be 2011's version of Lehman Brothers, the tipping point for financial panic. European leaders have been desperately trying to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt, which could cripple the euro currency.

• State and national consumer confidence levels improved slightly this summer, but are still near a record low. A University of Florida survey this month found Floridians slightly more optimistic about the long-term, but more pessimistic about current finances.

• We've got less money to spend. U.S. incomes fell last month for the first time in nearly two years, the Commerce Department reported Friday. More people are tapping into savings, and the savings rate in August fell to December 2009 levels.

• The jobs market never recovered from the last recession. Florida unemployment has fallen from its 12 percent peak, but remains a high 10.7 percent. Toss in part-timers seeking full-time work and those who have temporarily given up looking and the rate is closer to 19 percent.

• No federal cavalry this time. The federal stimulus program mitigated the effects of the Great Recession, propping up state and local budgets. This time, there's little political appetite for more stimulus given debt loads, and the Federal Reserve is running out of options to stimulate borrowing.

and five reasons it's not as bad as it looks

• Companies are in much-better financial shape to weather a financial storm than last time. They've cut costs, improved profit margins and become more efficient. Corporate profits swelled by $57.3 billion in the second quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

• Businesses aren't shedding jobs as aggressively. Mass layoff announcements have been trending downward this year compared to 2010. New unemployment claims nationally fell to a five-month low last week.

• The odds are still against a recession, according to many experts. A Federal Reserve index of state economies predicts Florida's economy will continue growing for at least six months. Many economists tracking the Florida market still place the odds on slow growth instead of recession.

• The government reported this week that the economy grew a better-than-expected 1.3 percent in the second quarter of this year. In other words, the slowdown isn't as slow as previously feared.

• More industries are growing. For much of the recession, health care and (for a time) government were the only ones adding jobs in Florida. Now, leisure and hospitality, professional services and financial activities are all in positive job growth territory.

Five reasons to worry — or not — about Great Recession Part II 09/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:12pm]
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