Time to Rise Out of the Fog

BizTimes Milwaukee kicked off the year with a cover image and headline that proclaimed, “Let’s hit the reset button.” Indeed. The worst recession since the Great Depression forced millions of American companies to hit the reset button in 2009. We have reset our expectations for our sales, for our profits, for our debt load, for our workforce, for our technology and for research and development.

In the process, Wisconsin has lost more than 140,000 jobs since the recession began, according to the Center On Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).

And the pain continues to mount. The Badger State appears to be on the brink of seeing its unemployment rate rise past the 10-percent mark, personal and business bankruptcies continue to soar and mortgage foreclosures are still piling up.

Meanwhile, the available capital credit for business expansion and commercial real estate development remains scarce.

Still, the human spirit perseveres. Amid all of this angst, we see enough green shoots to preserve our reasons to believe that we shall rise above this recessionary fog:

The newest Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce‘s Business Outlook Survey indicates slightly more local business owners are optimistic about their third quarter sales and capital spending than in the quarter before (see page 18).

The stock market, widely viewed as a leading indicator, bounced back nicely in the second quarter. Locally, the BizTimes Stock Index, reflecting the cumulative value of the stocks of companies based in southeastern Wisconsin, is up 6.8 percent for the year (see page 20).

Employers in the latest Manpower Inc. survey indicate a stabilization in the workforce.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Index of Small Business Optimism rose 2.1 points in May. Added to April’s gain of 5.8 points, the index has clearly bottomed and is signaling an end to the recession, according to the NFIB.

The vast majority of employers in Wisconsin and northern Illinois expect their businesses to either improve or remain the same in the third quarter, according to the latest survey by QPS Companies, a Brookfield-based staffing and recruiting firm.

The Conference Board proclaimed recently that the U.S. recession is “losing steam” and a slow recovery should begin by the end of the year. The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 1.2 percent in May, the second consecutive monthly increase.

To be sure, the recession is far from over. There will be more job losses, and commercial capital shows no signs of loosening in the near future. However, the rates of escalating job losses and mortgage foreclosures are dwindling

Here’s hoping the federal economic stimulus will spark some momentum in the second half of the year and send us on a trajectory for a “U-shaped” recovery, rather than a multi-tiered, prolonged “W-shaped” recession. 

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