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Daily Bread for 4.2.24: Wisconsin’s Economy and Perceptions of It

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of 40. Sunrise is 6:32 and sunset 7:23 for 12h 50m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 48 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1865, defeat at the Third Battle of Petersburg forces the Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate government to abandon Richmond, Virginia.


An improving economy will not reach everyone simultaneously, as quickly as one would hope, or even feel like it has arrived after it does. 

Of those not  reached (and worse for not having been reached), Natalie Eilbert reports Wisconsin’s homeless rate edges upward, after nearly a decade of a downward trend:

Wisconsin’s homelessness population is on the rise for the first time in a decade, a trend that will likely grow as federal pandemic-relief programs end and living costs continue to surge.

The trend, in a report by Wisconsin Policy Forum released Wednesday, appears to be driven by the economic hardships and layoffs that have become synonymous with the pandemic, and consequently, the jump in housing costs in the pandemic’s aftermath.

COVID-19 relief dollars managed to head off the pandemic’s impact on Wisconsin’s homeless rate, but that quickly changed when relief dollars expired and eviction moratoriums lifted, said Don Cramer, the Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher who authored Wednesday’s report.

….

That translated to a 13% increase in Wisconsin’s homelessness rate between 2021 and 2022, and another 2% increase between 2022 and 2023. To put this into perspective, 6,055 Wisconsinites were registered as homeless in 2014, but by 2021, that number had fallen to 4,237 — a 30% drop. As of 2023, Wisconsin reported 4,861 homeless individuals.

“The lowest (homeless) numbers in 2021 happened when the state got the most funding from relief dollars,” Cramer said. “When different aids start falling away, we see higher homeless rates.”

While Cramer attributes success against homelessness to federal and state relief funds, this approach (however successful, even temporarily) was destined to be limited by the availability of those funds. A funding program may be vital during an immediate crisis but insufficient afterward. To call upon economic growth to uplift the homeless, however, is to call upon powerful forces that do not reach everyone, or for those with several maladies, will not reach them without intermediate growth among supportive professions and sectors of the economy. (A person who needs medical care, even after finding permanent accommodations, needs an economy that produces doctors and the means to reach them. Productive and prosperous economies create diverse opportunities beyond mere employment for one population or within one sector.) 

For many consumers, Casey Quinlan writes Experts say the economy is getting better, but consumers don’t feel that way. Here’s why:

Consumer sentiment, a smaller survey [as against consumer confidence] conducted by the University of Michigan, also gauges people’s sense of the economy overall, the labor market, and how they see inflation. On Thursday, U.S. consumer sentiment jumped to 79.4 from 76.9 in February and 62 a year earlier, making this its highest level since July 2021.

Joanne Hsu, director of the survey, said in the report that this number is an indication that consumers believe the economy is “holding steady.”

“As the election season progresses and debates over economic policy become more salient for consumers, their outlook for the economy could become more volatile in the months ahead,” she added.

Kevin Kliesen, business economist and research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said consumer confidence and consumer sentiment are still far below pre-pandemic levels and that it’s a puzzle as to why when the economy has “been growing fairly strongly” in the past year and a half. But like Pancotti, he added that high prices at the store compared to pre-pandemic prices may be playing a role in those measures.

“If you’re like me, you look at something, and you go, ‘Oh my gosh. I remember when it was so much less before the pandemic.’ So I think that calls into question, probably, a lot of people’s perceptions of the overall state of the economy and importantly their consumer finances,” he said.

There’s sure to be a debate about whether perceptions of particular costs, for example, accurately reflect consumers’ general, measurable gains of the last few years. It may be puzzling that consumer confidence and sentiment are lower than an economist might expect, but it’s sensible to say that there’s likely to be a cause, important to those with low confidence and sentiments.

Perhaps higher prices, perhaps something else, but unlikely either magic or delusion.  


No sweat: Moisture-wicking device keeps wearable-tech dry:

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Careful Observer
10 days ago

It is likely that those who have worked/managed/owned either retail or service sector businesses would anecdotally comment that their observations while moving about various communities in our region that lack of confidence is highly visible, indeed almost palpable and very nearly akin to the same observations not in the height of the 2008 recession but certainly in it’s lingering aftermath. One could sardonically comment the ferver on Wall Street doesn’t match the reality on Main Street(and many commercial districts beyond and a bit more visible in say Janesville at the moment).