A cautiously optimistic take on our bipolar economy

  @FortuneMagazine August 22, 2013: 9:20 AM ET
CAS02 economy

For those of you returning to work after a summer break, here's an upbeat story about the U.S. economy. Five years after the great financial crisis of 2008, the housing market is recovering strongly, exports have just hit an all-time high, job growth looks decent, and the stock market is enjoying another strong year, reflecting a historic surge in corporate profits. Yippee! But wait a minute. Since spring 2012, the recovery has stumbled badly: GDP growth has averaged less than 1.5% on an annualized basis. Wages remain depressed. And as millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor force, the monthly jobs figures have been seriously distorted. The official unemployment rate is now 7.4%. But if you adjust the figures for the decline in the labor force participation rate, the real rate may be 10% or even higher.

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