Will folks in the Tampa Bay area be better off by the end of 2012 than they are right now, halfway through the year?
The answer is yes, though those of us lucky enough to see better days by Dec. 31 may be disappointed by how modest the gains may be. And you will have to earn even those; sitting on the couch watching Pawn Stars won't cut it.
By the end of the year, more of us will be employed as the Tampa Bay jobless rate (now 8.6 percent) declines — but at a slowing pace.
Fewer of us will be threatened with foreclosure, though there's still plenty in Tampa Bay's distressed housing pipeline that must be resolved.
More of us will have bought houses here by then, increasingly confident the real estate market is at last stabilizing. Others will have refinanced mortgages at super-low mortgage rates under 4 percent.
A good refi is as good as getting a raise — and more likely. So is buying gas for less than $3.10 a gallon, rather than the $3.43 average paid in this metro area one year ago.
Still, consider this a realistic slogan to wrap up 2012: Curb Your Enthusiasm.
You can still be upbeat. Just don't expect miracles in a state still crawling out of a deep economic hole, in a country whose best skill lately seems to be kicking hard problems down the road for others to fix.
As the six short profiles on this page suggest, there are definite steps to take during the remainder of this year to help in finding work or a better job.
Are you satisfied with your level of education? You shouldn't be. If you're not pursuing a degree, master more job skills, especially those using technology to boost your productivity and manage data.
Can you improve yourself? You'd better, if you want to show you're a candidate for better jobs. At the very least, prove you are a good hire who deserves the position you have.
Are your finances in reasonable order? It's probably time for a tune-up. Have you saved enough should you suffer a rough patch? Sock away enough to handle six months of living expenses. And if you can't save more, find ways to spend less.
If you believe the various consumer confidence surveys, we're all in a funk. A University of Florida survey last month found Floridians to be less optimistic across all age and income groups. Similar results show up in the Harris Interactive monthly survey done for staffing company Randstad Holding.
"The economy and job market are continuing to weigh heavily on the minds of U.S. workers," states Randstad chief employment analyst Joanie Ruge. "This sentiment will also likely remain for employers as they look toward the second half of what has proven to be a year of caution."
One bright spot for Tampa Bay is the late August arrival of the Republican National Convention, which will inject millions of dollars into the regional economy. More important, the RNC event is sparking major marketing efforts by area economic development groups to showcase innovation and our regional economy's best attributes to a select national and international audience.
Will such a barrage of PR help deliver more jobs? Eventually. Consider it the 2012 warm-up of a longer-term campaign to get the outside world to pay closer attention to an underappreciated Tampa Bay.
Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.