If you notice a few more Christmas presents under your tree this year, don’t thank Santa, thank Obama. A surging U.S. economy has people much more willing to part with their hard-earned cash for holiday shopping this year. Record job growth and a growing sense that the economy has finally stabilized means consumers and business owners are feeling confident that a trip to the mall isn’t going to come back to bite them.
Their optimism is showing through in their plans for the holidays. In a Gallup poll, Americans estimated that on average they would spend around $830 on gifts this year. In 2008, during the heart of the financial collapse, that number was hundreds of dollars less.
And while holiday gifts certainly aren’t the most important indicator of the economy, it does reveal that so-called “discretionary spending” is way up in President Obama’s second term. The doom-and-gloom predicted by many on the right has not come to pass. The economy is roaring.
Businesses are also recognizing that this could be a big year for shopping. It would probably come as a shock to a time traveler from the distant year of 2008, but the biggest concern for retailers in 2015 is having enough staff on hand to handle the crowds. In response, businesses have hired a record number of workers.
According to the report, based on annual data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that date back to 1939, retailers hired 214,500 employees last month. That was 16 percent more than a year ago, when 185,700 people were hired. This year’s hires represent the most ever added in the month of October, topping the record set in 2014.
The great economic news hasn’t been greeted with warmth from everyone. Upon learning that the U.S. economy had added another record number of jobs, the scrooges at Fox News were sent into an on-air depression spiral that was difficult to watch.
The Republican presidential candidates were having a hard time coping with the state of things, as well. Their solution appears to be to just ignore the economy entirely. During the Republican debate specifically meant to focus on economics, not a single candidate brought up the strong jobs numbers, the robust stock market, or consumer confidence. They bickered over which one on stage had the best plan to give tax cuts to the rich, instead.
Consumers may not be hearing about the economy during the debates, but they are clearly feeling it in their wallets. And as economists have noted time and again, consumers – not the rich – typically fuel economic growth. We’re seeing it play out in reality. With spending way up, the job market responded. And with workers now in demand, their bargaining position for things like better salary and benefits has gone up, as well. Welcome to trickle-up, economics.
Happy holidays, America.
Feature image via the White House