Saturday, December 31, 2011

Economic Rebound -- My Annual Unscientific Observation

It is a Samwick family custom to spend the December holidays in South Florida each year.  I grew up in Palm Beach County, and my in-laws are nearby as well.  This year, Mother Nature cooperated by keeping the winter weather at bay on the days we traveled, and JetBlue and Avis had excellent customer service.  Seriously, that must be what the trip to heaven is like, at least if it starts out in Vermont during winter.

Travel is always a fun time for first-hand data gathering on economic outcomes, even if all the data are anecdotal.  Here are four things I noticed:
  1. Prices are higher, particularly for travel services with less elastic demand.  On our trip, that was the airfare and the rental cars primarily, but also restaurants that we typically frequent and stores where we did some shopping.
  2. Venues are near capacity but not bursting.  Places that we went had the feeling of being full but not crowded.
  3. There was less traffic than I would have expected, particularly given #2.  The only time we were delayed was when there was an accident.
  4. There was no construction of any consequence.
The third seems to be the result of a large amount of infrastructure spending, particularly I-95 but also many ancillary roads, during the past decade.  It may also have been due to different traffic patterns during the holiday season, but my comparison is to prior holiday seasons.  The first two are not what you would expect from an economy in the aftermath of a bust that has not yet found its bottom.  The next direction is clearly positive.  But the fourth item is the one that makes me think that whatever positive movement we get, it will not be very large for quite a while.

Outside of these travel-related observations, I have been getting an unusually high amount of promotional e-mails from online retailers this season.  They are either becoming very good at figuring out that I need new socks, or they are quite desperate.

What were your holiday season observations and experiences related to the economy?

1 comment:

Jen Taub said...

Welcome to your new solo blog.