The Economy Today: It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Headlines from Missouri, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, and elsewhere

The Wall Street Journal reports that consumer confidence is up for the fifth month in a row. This report is coupled with another survey which says that the personal savings rate grew to 6.9 percent this May, up from 5.6 percent in April. The indicators represent divergent prospects for the economy: consumer optimism is good, but if that’s underpinned by families increasing their savings, then the Obama administration’s plan to stimulate spending may not work.

USA Today joins the inflation debate by running some numbers about the current national debt. Some hedge funds are setting up strategies that will make money if inflation grows, but most economists quoted say it’s unlikely. One reason: “To get to inflation, however, you need a humming economy, and the economy is barely breathing.”

The New York Times continues reporting about the federal program designed to prevent foreclosures and its shortcomings. The problems include issues with lenders who have been unwilling to modify loan terms and borrowers who face frustration as they attempt to negotiate with banks.

The Associated Press reports on a new program for students that will help them repay student loans in a more affordable manner. The Income-Based Repayment program “is determined by a person’s income and loan size.” The formula constrains monthly payments to less than 10 percent of the debtor’s monthly salary, and the balance is forgiven after twenty-five years of consistent repayment.

In local headlines, Springfield, Missouri’s zoo has seen an increase in attendance, because of the recession, perhaps. In California, Whole Foods is developing a new strategy to avoid layoffs and financial trouble. And Massachusetts school administrators are “confounded” by the absence of stimulus money.

Indiana’s Journal and Courier surveys single moms, asking how they’re holding up in the recession. Some moms are using public amenities like parks and libraries to keep kids busy, instead of buying expensive toys. There’s a division among parents about whether to tell their kids about their financial troubles. Some share; others don’t. One psychology professor says it’s inappropriate to burden young children, and that mothers should remain calm and positive.

The Lynn, Massachusetts school district is still waiting for school stimulus funds, The Daily Item reports. This year, the Lynn Teacher Union agreed to an unpaid workday to help save jobs, hoping to see more money come to the schools.

The News-Leader in Springfield, Missouri reports that zoo attendance has jumped at zoos around the country, including ones in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Memphis. The headline says that the “recession” has “helped draw crowds,” though zoo administrators think that the milder summer temperatures may be part of the explanation.

A forecast from the University of the Pacific projects that north California’s Vallejo area will be the last to recover from the recession, in around 2014. Sacramento won’t recover until 2013, but San Jose and San Francisco will be among the first in 2012. Employment and foreclosure rates were some of the data considered by the university, The Contra Costa Times says.

Also in California, The Mercury News looks at Whole Foods’s strategy for weathering the recession. The company plans to open smaller stores with fewer employees and to draw on locally owned farms and businesses to cut down on shipping costs. The supermarket is also hoping to elevate its do-gooder reputation by participating in food banks and sponsoring coastal cleanups.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.