By Angel Abcede
CHICAGO - Though the economy has been improving, a stagnant employment picture has stalled the nation€™s overall recovery, industry economist David Nelson told attendees on Tuesday morning at the NACS State of the Industry Summit.
C-store operators, for the most part, have weathered the difficult economic times but will face continuing challenges regarding core categories, most notably gasoline, as the country€™s larger financial situation stalls.
"We€™ve been in recovery for three years," said Nelson, a CSX LLC founder and the founder and president of Finance & Resource Management Consultants Inc. "In 2009, the recession [was declared] over, but it hasn€™t felt like an economic recovery because unemployment is still high."
Unemployment today stands at 8.3%, compared to 5% in 2005, he said.
Officially, 12.8 million people are unemployed. The statistic gets bleaker when considering that a significant number of individuals aren€™t even included in that figure because they€™ve stopped looking for work and are no longer counted. Add to that, the number of part-time people who would prefer to work full time, and a larger picture forms.
Still, Nelson says the numbers are on a positive trend, noting that the percentage of working-age Americans prior to the recession was 62% to 63%. Today€™s numbers are probably in the 58% to 59% range. "Not as high as prior to the recession but it€™s moving in the right direction."
Overall, the recession has had a lasting impact, robbing the nation of a potential $963 billion in gross domestic product, Nelson said. Currently, the nation€™s GDP growth of between 2.2% to 2.4% does not match what will be necessary to recoup the almost $1 trillion lost.
Other factors in the nation€™s economic recovery include consumer spending, people€™s debt-to-income ratio, housing starts and future action by the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy. Nelson said that foreclosure activity and how ramifications from the U.S. housing crisis move through the system will influence those elements and may place a further drag on the country€™s recovery.
Comparing post-recessionary periods from years past, Nelson showed conference attendees that this recovery is more prolonged that most. "Even three years after the recession, job recovery has been really slow," he said. "So we don€™t have a robust economy."
The NACS State of the Industry Summit, April 3 to 5 in Chicago, concludes today.