What’s ahead for 2013? Likely more of the same

So we’ve survived the apocalypse supposedly foretold by the end of the ancient Mayan calendar. And we didn’t tumble off the so-called fiscal cliff, even though the last-minute deal worked out to avert tax hikes and automatic government spending cuts was rightfully panned by some as causing more harm than good.

So what’s next for 2013?

By many accounts, more of the same — not only steady, yet stubbornly slow, economic recovery, but also political gridlock giving way to dubious solutions.

The latest economic news in Mesa County is, as usual, mixed.

Counting year-over-year gains in December, real estate activity in the county in 2012 climbed to its highest level in four years. Increasing sales and dollar volume are expected to continue in 2013. Interestingly, one of more pressing problems for the local real estate industry has become low inventory levels. There’s hope, though, that rising prices and additional new construction will bring more homes to the market.

The news is less good for the labor market. The latest monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County edged up a tenth to 8.4 percent to match the rate at the same time the year before. Moreover, payrolls and the overall labor force declined. While labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction has lagged, at least year-to-date numbers remain at their highest level since 2008.

On a statewide level, two indexes tracking business conditions and confidence among business leaders have both slipped. However, one index continues to forecast growth in months ahead while the other index still reflects cautious optimism in the state economy.

Depending on what happens in Washington, the continued grind of slow economic recovery actually could constitute good news during 2013.

Despite all the hoopla over the fiscal cliff deal, Congress and President Barack Obama failed to address the looming federal debt ceiling and what could be yet another Washington crisis in the making. More importantly still, politicians seem unable or even unwilling to deal with the far more significant long-term problem: unsustainable increases in federal spending and mounting debt. At what point will politicians finally realize the crushing debt constitutes a more serious threat to national security than foreign hostilities?

The good news is that savvy business owners literally manage to sustain their operations in the face of ongoing economic challenges and despite, not because of, the actions of their federal government. Thankfully, there are local organizations in place that continue to offer assistance that helps businesses stay in business.

In that regard, we can all look forward to more of the same in 2013.