Jobless may need to plan for recession's end

October 29, 2009 7:00:46 PM PDT
From Washington, the government has all but declared the "great recession" over. The Commerce Department on Thursday said the economy grew 3.5 percent in the past three months -- the best showing in two years and the end of a year-long slowdown.

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They loved it on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose almost 200 points on Thursday -- the NASDAQ, Bloomberg Silicon Valley Index, and markets around the world are up too. But is it all a mirage?

Look around and you see new construction work. In many cases, they're projects funded by stimulus money. There was a flurry of car buying, but it was stimulus money.

"Americans love a sale, and Cash for Clunkers was a sale. If you give them a sale, they go out and shop, and that's what happened," says Professor John Shoven, Ph.D.

Shoven is director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. The economy did show its first sign of growth in over a year. It is a hopeful sign that the slide in the gross domestic product, or GDP, for four straight quarters is over.

However, even the president doesn't look at the GDP as the only measure of a turnaround.

"The benchmark I use to measure the strength of our economy is not just whether our GDP is growing, but whether we're creating jobs, whether families are having an easier time paying their bills, whether our businesses are hiring," says President Obama.

Unemployment is a lagging indicator, which means it could be months before we see any improvement in the number of people working. So for many people who are looking for jobs today, it might be better if they spend their time looking for training for their next job.

Burlingame resident Sandra Rowell is a prime example. Out of work for two years as a receptionist, she's attending a fair where stimulus funds will pay for most or all of her training in the medical field.

"Anything that helps to help a person to get back on their feet and get them back to working again and help the economy again, that's great," says Rowell.

San Mateo County received almost $4 million in stimulus training money -- enough to train 500 people.

"It's my hope we'll have a really strong fourth quarter. We'll come out of the fourth quarter, folks will get new skills, they'll come out of training, and I'm hoping they're going to come out of training and right into jobs," says Fred Slone, a workforce development manager.

When that happens, an economic rebound will cease being a mirage and become a reality.

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