The Economy Today: An Upturn Overseas

Economic news from Arizona, Florida, North Dakota, and elsewhere

The lead economic story in the American press today is about Europe. As The Washington Post reports, new data from the Continent shows that Germany and France are unexpectedly “the first major industrialized nations to officially pull out of the global recession.” Plenty of caveats and cautions remain, but the improvement there, and in other countries in both Europe and Asia, shows that even as consumer spending has remained low, “ramped-up government stimulus spending around the globe appears to be having at least some of its desired effects.”

So what does a return to growth abroad mean for the U.S.? It’s a good news, bad news situation, the papers report. According to the Post, the upsurge overseas could help boost U.S. exports, but it could also drive up global commodity prices, sparking inflation. The Wall Street Journal adds that the U.S. consumer, until recently the engine of the global economy, seems to have taken on a diminished role. But one analyst quoted by the Journal takes a sunny view of the latest news: “Just as it was a synchronized recession, it will largely be a synchronized upturn.”

The Post also delivers another feature on what the recession looks like for working Americans. This one focuses on Janet Morgan, a 63-year-old woman who left her home in Zanesville, Ohio to find work in Glenfield, North Dakota. According to the excellent New York Times interactive unemployment map, that means moving from a county where unemployment is nearly 12 percent to one where it’s at 3 percent—but, as the Post story makes clear, it also means leaving the life you knew behind.

Elsewhere on the unemployment front, The New York Times reports that for all the talk about a new “green” economy, the renewable energy sector hasn’t been immune to the downturn, and expectations about the number of jobs it will create should be held in check. “You have to build a lot of windmills to replace what’s happening in Detroit,” says one analyst. Regional papers, meanwhile, continue to report on the stream of stimulus funds. In Reno, Nevada, a $3.8 million airport grant is projected to create 50 to 60 full-time jobs, reports the San Jose Mercury News. And in Vermont, another $2.4 million is going to a broader airport upgrade that lawmakers say “could create as many as 350 new jobs… over the next 10 years,” reports the Burlington Free Press. In Florida, meanwhile, an infusion of stimulus funds is being credited with saving 700 education jobs in Orange County, and another 400 in Seminole County, reports TV station WFTV.

Out in the Southwest, though, the Arizona Republic reports that the state government has been slow to distribute millions in federal aid to local schools, and officials are now busy passing the buck. “Ask any government official who’s to blame for the lag and interruptions in stimulus-fund delivery and you’ve just started a game of “not me,’” writes reporter Emily Gersema.

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