In the days of mail and telephones, it might have taken days or weeks for corporate America to learn of success or failure of its glittery holiday offerings and after-Thanksgiving sales. Now, the corporate titans were hearing from their analytics departments within hours of the stores opening, many of them on Thanksgiving Day itself.
And the first reports weren’t pretty, as consumers held on to their wallets. Retail spending was down almost 3 percent.
It’s not the be-all and end-all of economic statistics, as manufacturing in the United States grew at the fastest rate in several years, with factory orders up. That was joined with new data showing rising construction spending, much of that related to governments building roads and bridges.
This should all be familiar in outline if different in details: the mixed signals of the recovery from the disastrous 2008 market crash and ensuing global recession.
Recovery is slow and uneven across the country.
Once again, Louisiana is rather countercyclical to the slowing in the economy suggested by consumer spending on Black Friday.
In the oil patch, for example, a boom is forecast. The petrochemical complex between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as well as that in the Lake Charles area long the Calcasieu River, anticipates billions in new construction spending for the next several years. Acadiana provides support services for the vast drilling jobs ahead, on shore and off the coast.
New Orleans’ tourism economy is thriving and big events such as basketball’s All-Star game contribute, but there’s also healthy growth in the technology sector on the horizon.
All this means that consumers can expect growth, at least around here.
What about consumers nationally? The statistics for Black Friday, though, also showed a 1 percent increase in the number of shoppers, so it is clear the customers looking for Christmas and Hanukah presents aren’t giving up yet.
They shouldn’t, as the national statistics aren’t all bad.
And we in south Louisiana should be counting the blessings of recovery as much or perhaps more than most.