Does mood matter? Philosophers and economists have been hammering out possible answers to that question for ages.
Looking at the concrete numbers in the government’s latest economic report Friday, America is improving. The unemployment rate is down. Wages are up. The stock market even opened higher Friday.
But in an abstract sense, is America feeling better economically? Signs indicate yes.
Earlier this month, Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index rose to a nine-year high. The index measures how Americans rate current economic conditions.
“Americans are now less likely than at any point since 2007 to name the economy in general (8 percent) as the most important problem facing the nation,” said Gallup’s Justin McCarthy.
One facet of the index was particularly interesting: In the days after President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress, the highest rise in economic confidence emerged among Democrats.
Could the president’s economic optimism — and the mere promise of better economic policies out of Washington — be that contagious?
With the Trump administration still in its infancy, it’s difficult to confirm a direct cause-and-effect between Trump’s actual policies and the economy. But the jobs report was based on data collected after Trump had been in office for more than three weeks.
Even The New York Times had to admit it: “It’s entirely plausible that Mr. Trump’s election in November and the ensuing market rally made business leaders a bit more inclined to move forward with hiring plans in January and February,” said Times senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin.
Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, put it more succinctly in a recent interview with Bloomberg News: “It seems like he’s woken up the animal spirits.”
The Survey of Consumers, administered by the University of Michigan, goes one better: After the November presidential election, positive consumer sentiment hit a 12-year high.
“Consumers expressed a higher level of confidence in January than any other time in the last dozen years,” said Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtain. “The post-election surge in confidence was driven by a more optimistic outlook for the economy and job growth during the year ahead as well as more favorable economic prospects over the next five years.”
A funny thing happened as detractors kept needling President Trump about making America great again.
It looks like the greatness is emerging bit by bit.