So, How Will We Know When It’s Really Over?

The recession lingers and continues to take its toll. We are all looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday, there were at least two bits of surprising economic news–Citigroup actually made money during the first two months of 2009 and AT&T announced that it is hiring. As we enter the waning stages of the economic downturn, we are likely to get mixed messages about the true direction in which the economy is headed.

So, how will we know when it’s over? Having worked closely with the financial affairs of businesses, I have always been amazed at how the internal economic data was an early indicator of how things were headed on a national scale. So, instead of relying on pundits, economists and other talking heads to tell us when the recession is over, we should instead look for signs of recovery in our own backyards. What happens on Main Street is much more important than what’s happening on Wall Street.

First, what is the mood of the salespeople at your company? If they appear more upbeat, then things might just be turning around. And, if one or more members of your company’s sales team goes out and buys a new car or new home, the signs are even better. Also, try to read the mood of your CFO or top finance or accounting executive. Do they seem more upbeat? Your sales team and finance people are on the front lines of what is happening with your company’s finances.

A second sign of recovery is hiring. Your company may not go out and add dozens of new positions but instead start adding back part-time and temporary positions. Also, if you see an increasing number of co-workers leaving the company for greener pastures, this is a sign that companies are beginning to hire again.

Other early signs that things are improving will include your employer reinstituting cost-of-living pay adjustments and 401(k) matching contributions.

Outside the workplace, look for signs that homes in your neighborhood are selling faster. If those two houses down the street that have been on the market for 9 months both sell within a week, it could be a good sign. Are restaurants busier? Are retailers less willing to give you a deal?

Chances are you will be able to detect the recovery in your own experience before the general media catches on. It may be tomorrow or it may much further down the road. Until then, it is important to be an encourager to those around us who feel despair because of the current economic conditions. Everyday Christian contributor Althea DeBrule has written an excellent article on encouraging others in the workplace. We need it now more than ever.


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  1. Your timing here is excellent. I ran into an old neighbor at my son’s band concert last night who has since moved to a different neighborhood. She said a few lots in her new neighborhood have sold in the past few weeks. Our county hasn’t been slammed as hard as some of our neighbors by the recession, so it’s not as surprising, but there’s no doubt “normal” people will see a rebound quicker than investment bankers in Manhattan.

    March 11, 2009

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