The Economy Today: A More Upbeat Outlook from the Fed

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the recession being over or nearly so, and now the Federal Reserve has joined the party, reports The New York Times. In a statement yesterday, the Fed concluded that “economic activity is leveling out.” Still, the statement pointed to plenty of signs of continuing weakness, and announced that the Fed would continue to pump money into the economy.

There’s also more disappointing data out this morning. The Washington Post carries a pair of Associated Press stories noting that new jobless claims rose last week and retail sales declined in June. In both cases the effect was fairly small but unexpected: analysts had anticipated positive moment on both measures. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Jounral reports on a new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City that projects high unemployment may be here to stay.

On the stimulus front, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist just can’t win. An AP story carried by the Miami Herald provides the rundown on Crist’s running feud with the House transportation committee, which has accused him of being slow to spend his state’s share of federal dollars. At the same time, reports the Palm Beach Post, a Republican county committee came just one vote short of formally censuring Crist, a Republican who’s running for U.S. Senate, for a variety of perceived offenses—including his support of the stimulus in the first place. An interesting column in the St. Petersburg Times, meanwhile, explores what it means for Florida now that the state, one of the epicenters of the housing crisis, is losing residents for the first time since World War II.

In other stimulus news, The New York Times reports that a federal effort to encourage lending to small businesses has had disappointing results, apparently because of strict guidelines for qualification but also because there’s not much profit opportunity for a bank in a six year, $35,000 loan, even one that’s guaranteed by the government. The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, reports that a city program will use stimulus funds to create 1,000 jobs for low-income San Franciscans. And finally, the Canton Repository in Stark County, Ohio, reports on how the head of an employment agency started her own job stimulus program: frustrated by the lack of hiring, she began hosting fundraisers and donated the proceeds to local businesses to hire temporary employees.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.