Is end-of-the-recession optimism misleading?


BusinessWeek's August 24 cover blares: "The Case for Optimism." As magazines and papers hemorrhage ink in their cheerleading for a supposed end to the recession, it seems like time to take a step back and ask if these are merely "feel-good" features, or if there is any substance to the notion that "the worst is over," the recession is done, and "green shoots" are taking root in key places.

Ultimately, it seems like skepticism is in order, as the rousing optimism neglects to mention a few grim realities. To begin with, while many have noted that the jobless rate has declined, they seem less inclined to point out that this is because the work force shrank. This is typical smoke-and-mirrors statistics: as people lose extended unemployment benefits, they are classified as "discouraged" and are no longer counted in the "headline" unemployment number.