Tea Leaf: The ABCs of the U.S. economy

Published: Tuesday, June 14 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

Quarterly economic growth — Most forecasting economists see a 2 percent to 3 percent real (after inflation) annual growth pace during the next four quarters, barring any other major shocks to the system.

Retirement — The term will take on new meaning in coming decades as more and more people "bridge the gap" (work two or three days a week) between working full-time and moving into full retirement. Millions of retirement-age baby boomers will prefer (or need) to keep one foot in the workplace for a long time to come.

Social Security — Steps taken sooner rather than later to slow down the future growth rate of spending are required. It would be great if politicians would stop calling it spending cuts … and scaring people!

Taxes — Boosting capital gains, dividend and income tax rates on the top 3 percent of income earners remains the president's goal, if he survives the 2012 election. Like it or not, these are primarily the people who create jobs and invest. The administration's focus on "income redistribution" rather than on providing "incentives for U.S. economic growth" remains troubling.

Unemployment — This is likely to remain above 8.2 percent during the next 12 to 18 months, even as modest monthly job gains have returned. Why? Hundreds of thousands of people who previously left the labor force will continue to return as they (hopefully) hear about better employment prospects, with more than 270,000 returnees in May alone.

Vacations — Remember them?

Wall Street — Simply stated, I remain a long-term bull on stocks.

eXpectations — These have diminished for millions of people of all ages regarding careers, standards of living and retirement. Fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C., and around the globe would go a long way to reversing that view.

Youth — My parents "came of age" with Pearl Harbor, my peers with Kennedy's assassination and Vietnam. For millions of Generations X and Y, Sept. 11 and the "Great Recession" will be forever etched into their consciousness.

JaZZ (Utah) — Maybe next season … if there is one!

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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