It’s not hard to remember when the economy was a whole lot worse | opinion

Remember the days when young people were getting out of school with fancy degrees, a mortgage load of debt, and they couldn’t find jobs?

Remember when house prices were tanking, companies were cutting salaries, laying off workers and even furloughing those kept on the payroll?

Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest photo winners from MLive

Ronda Garmon receives a call from a Capital One representative while doing volunteer work inside her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Garmon was furloughed from her job at Experience Grand Rapids in March and has been told she can return to work in October. “The pandemic has put us in a pickle,” she told the credit card company. She agreed to make a payment later in the month. “It’s impossible to pay all of our bills,” she said about Congress not extending the $600 unemployment benefits. Cory Morse | MLive.com

Remember when bigwigs making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year scoffed at paying minimum wage to the hard-working folks keeping them rich?

Those were the days, my friend. We feared they’d never end. But thank God they’re gone. Sometimes we have to look back to realize just how good the present is. We do have reason to grouse about $5.00 a gallon gas, but let’s also agree some things are a whole lot better today, COVID or no COVID.

Here's the latest on Lehigh Valley unemployment, as national layoffs remain stuck at high level

US Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the Lehigh Valley, not seasonally adjusted, puts the unemployment rate at 13.5% in May 2020, down from 16.2% in April 2020 for the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA.data wrapper

Here’s some facts:

  • Unemployment is no longer an issue. Almost anyone who wants a job can find one, and many don’t even have to go to the office.
  • Many companies are increasing wages to keep talented employees.
  • Many companies are begging people to come to work for them, paying signing bonuses to new employees and jumping through hoops to keep them on the job.
  • Many people won’t work anywhere for $7.25 an hour, not even teenagers. No legislation needed to raise the minimum wage.
  • Home prices are soaring, meaning many Americans have an equity cushion worth thousands of dollars.
New,Sign,Sold,Over,Asking,Price,For,Sale,In,Front

New sign sold over asking price for sale in front of detached house in residential area. Real estate bubble, crash, hot housing market, overpriced property, buyer activity concept. Selective focus. – Home sold ShutterstockShutterstock

We can blame Vladmir Putin for skyrocketing fuel prices at home and around the world, but there’s lots of good news about the economy in Pennsylvania.

The best news is about jobs. There’s plenty of them, and workers got the power.

According to the latest federal statistics, in Pennsylvania alone, the economy has added 276,000 jobs since January 2021. In fact, in the past year, the commonwealth has recovered more than 80 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic. In just the educational and health sectors, Pennsylvania’s economy added 31,000 jobs between January 2021-2022.

The best news of all is the state’s unemployment rate fell from 7.5 percent in January 2021 to 4.8 percent in April 2022.

Pennsylvania jobless rate hits 15.1% as payrolls collapse

A row of signs advertising jobs are posted in front of a Burger King restaurant, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Harmony, Pennsylvania. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus took hold in the US has swelled to nearly 39 million, the government reported Thursday, even as states from coast to coast gradually reopen their economies and let people go back to work .AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

And, like that TV guy says — wait, there’s more. After hearing of business after business closing, there are signs of new business opening. The federal government tells us the new businesses are a direct result of the programs President Joe Biden instituted when it took office to boost the economy, and they seem to be working.

Federal statistics say Pennsylvanians applied to start more new businesses during President Biden’s first year in office than in any other year since 2005.

Plus, according to federal statistics, Pennsylvania’s “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” an updated gauge of poverty, was projected to be 5.8 percent in 2021, lower than 11.4 percent in 2018. The same poverty measure for children under 18 in Pennsylvania was projected to be 3.5 percent in 2021, lower than the 10.5 percent measured in 2018.

Help wanted on the Carlisle Pike

Carpet & Tile Mart Manager Matt Clark has opening he can’t fill as dozens of business on the Carlisle Pike have ‘Help Wanted’ or ‘Now Hiring’ signs out front, Mechanicsburg, Pa., Jul. 9, 2021. Mark Pynes | mpynes@pennlive.com

This is good news for average people and especially for workers, but many businesses aren’t celebrating. They are having a hard time finding workers, especially if they can’t, or won’t pay a competitive wage. Seems like COVID has done what legislation couldn’t, ensure people get a living wage for eight hours a day.

Depending on your perspective, that’s the best news of all. Maybe market forces help workers, too.

But there seems to be good news for the business community, as well. Federal statistics show the Commonwealth’s real GDP grew 6.4 percent at an annual rate in the 4th quarter of 2021, substantially more than in 2020, when Pennsylvania’s real GDP decreased by 3.2 percent.

So, while there are good reasons to grouse about how Putin’s brutality is causing high gas prices, things could be a whole lot worse. It’s not hard to remember when they were.

Joyce M. Davis is PennLive’s Outreach & Opinion Editor. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @byjoycedavis.

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