The "dismal science" of economics typically focuses on "bad" news. We clearly face many significant challenges. However, there are also many favorable developments taking place within the U.S. economy. This is our semi-annual update of "Happy Talk." This Tea Leaf focuses ONLY on the "good" news.
Roughly 90 percent of the states have added jobs during the most recent 12-month period. Formerly, every state had dealt with recession at some point during the past three years.
For every dollar of U.S. economic output generated today, we burn less than half as much oil as 30 years ago.
The 0.9 percent decline in the nation's unemployment rate during the past three months was the sharpest three-month fall in 28 years.
The Dow average has rebounded 87 percent since its low in early March 2009, with similar gains by other measures.
U.S. exports to China have risen roughly 24 percent per year since 2001, making China the fastest-growing market for U.S. goods.
The upward "mobility" of the typical American remains the greatest in the world. Why? The U.S. economy "rewards" the combination of hard work and educational achievement more than ever before — and more than any other country in the world.
Roughly 80 percent of companies that suspended or reduced their 401(k) matches during the past two to three years reinstated them in 2010 or will do so in 2011.
Women now make up a record 46 percent of global MBA candidates. More than 70 percent of students surveyed name the U.S. as the top MBA study destination.
Fatal car crashes involving teen drivers fell by one-third in the latest five-year period and have been declining since 1996.
Energy-efficient appliances, cars, buildings and other technologies that already exist could lower U.S. energy usage 30 percent by 2030.
Roughly 47 percent of science and engineering degrees of those ages 25 to 39 are held by women, compared with 21 percent among those 65 and older.
U.S. economic growth has now been positive for seven consecutive quarters.
Average U.S. life expectancy has reached 78.2 years (men 75, women 80), the highest ever. This compares to 76 years in 1995, 68 years in 1950, and 47 years in 1900.
The number of American volunteers rose 2.6 percent to 63.4 million in 2009.
The value of a university education for American men and women in terms of future earnings power is nearly twice that of those in the average rich nation.
Violent crime in the U.S. declined during 2010's first half, following three consecutive years of decline.
Since 2006, the percentage of incoming freshmen who abstain from alcohol has jumped from 38 percent to 62 percent.
U.S. airlines did not have a single fatality last year, the third of the past four years with no deaths.
The addition of 97,000 net new manufacturing jobs in recent months was the strongest three-month rise in 16 years.
Even as U.S. economic output (GDP) has climbed by more than 210 percent since 1970, aggregate emission of six principal air pollutants has plunged by 60 percent.
The infant mortality rate in the U.S. hit a record low in 2009.
A recent poll of more than 12,000 global business figures conducted by the World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. as the world's most competitive economy.
Productivity of U.S. workers rose an average of 2.6 percent annually during the past 10 years, the largest gains in 40 years. Rising productivity is a long-term key to higher standards of living.
The number of people who have quit smoking (46 million) now exceeds the number who still smoke (45 million). Less than 21 percent of adults smoke today, versus nearly half in the early 1950s.
The U.S. Justice Department said the number of juvenile offenders declined 26 percent between 2000 and 2008.
During the early 1960s, the five-year survival rate from cancer for Americans was one in three. Today it is two in three — continuing to climb — and the highest in the world.
The earnings gap between men and women has shrunk to a record low. Women on average earn 83percent of what men earn, versus 76 percent a decade ago. Women with comparable education and experience earn comparable incomes.
Conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have averaged 4.75 percent in recent weeks, near the lowest level in nearly 50 years.
Women have drawn even with men in holding advanced degrees in the U.S.
Men's contribution to housework has doubled over the past 40 years, while their time spent on child care has tripled.
U.S. traffic deaths per 100 million miles traveled during 2009 were the lowest on record.
America produces more steel today than 30 years ago, despite the shuttered plants and slimmed-down work force.
An estimated 925 million people worldwide are undernourished, down from slightly more than one billion in 2009. Obviously, more needs to be done.
Alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the most recently reported year dropped by more than half versus 20 years ago.
Total U.S. workplace fatalities declined to their lowest point on record last year.
The U.S. accounted for nearly one-third of the $1.1 trillion spent globally on research and development in the latest data available.
Substantiated cases of childhood sexual abuse have fallen 49 percent since 1990. Physical abuse of children is down by 43 percent.
Economic output of the average American worker is 10-12 times that in China. Americans won 30 Nobel prizes in science and economics during the past five years. China? Just one.
Donations to charity were near the all-time high in 2009, with nearly $304 billion donated by individuals, foundations and corporations. As a percentage of GDP, Americans gave twice as much as the next most charitable nation, England. In 1964, there were 15,000 U.S. foundations. By 2001, there were 61,000.
The divorce rate dropped by one-third between 1981 and 2008, and is at its lowest level since 1970.
Children's deaths from unintentional injury have dropped by almost 40 percent since 1987. Bicycle deaths fell 60 percent, while firearms-related deaths fell 72 percent.
Roughly 30 percent of trash was recycled or composted in the latest year, versus 16 percent in 1990.
Seat belt usage by Americans was at 85 percent in 2009, versus 49 percent in 1990 and 14 percent in 1983.
A record 30 percent of men have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, versus 29 percent of women, also a record. This compares to a combined 7.7 percent in 1960. A record 85 percent of adults over age 25 now have at least a high school diploma, versus 24 percent in 1940.
The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest level in nearly 70 years of record keeping. The reasons? More widespread use of birth control and more girls who "just say no."
The U.S. role of dominance in the global economy during the past decade was as clear-cut as at any time since the 1950s.
Jeff Thredgold is chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.