There are other favorable omens. Global trade is reviving. Closer to home, the federal budget is expected to dampen growth less than in 2013. With all this encouraging news, confidence should be improving — and polls suggest it is. In December, the University of Michigan's Survey of Consumers rose nearly 10 percent. A weekly survey of business sentiment among managers by Moody's Analytics found the mood to be the best "since the survey began 11 years ago."
Now, a caution.
A better recovery presumes that consumers and companies respond to good news as in the past. But they may not. The Great Recession changed attitudes and behavior because it was both unexpected and devastating. Though jobs are up, they remain about 1.3 million below the record. Millions of would-be workers (almost 5.7 million, estimates the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank) have left the labor force. Americans have been sobered. The resulting wariness may be self-fulfilling. Initial reports of holiday shopping were mixed.
All that's certain is that the economy will (again) be a big story in 2014, affecting America's politics and psychology. Happy New Year, everyone.
Robert J. Samuelson is a Washington Post columnist.
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