What’s ahead in 2022? A glass half full or half empty?

Phil Castle

I’m by nature a glass-half-full kind of guy. Locked in a room waist deep in horse poop, I’m the one digging in search of the pony. I’m not sure whether that makes me hopelessly naive or naively hopeless.

I can’t argue against the value of recognizing the downside to situations. In some circumstances, what you underestimate can kill you. But there’s also a danger, I believe, in dwelling on the negative if it prevents you from trying to achieve the positive. That’s not to mention the risk of self-fulfilling prophesy. You worry something bad will happen and, lo and behold, it does.

I believe it’s better to acknowledge what’s wrong, try to fix it and move on with hopeful expectations for success.

This lengthy explanation serves as a prologue to my real topic. Or, rather, question. What’s ahead for the second half of 2022? Will the proverbial glass be half full, half empty or something completely different? 

As with all economic considerations, the answer remains essentially the same. It depends. It depends on who you ask as well as the effects of a combination of factors known and unknown.

A quarterly survey asks Colorado business leaders what they think, and the latest results are grim. The Leeds Business Confidence Index fell 12.8 points to 41.1 for the third quarter, the fifth-lowest reading in the history of the index. By the way, readings below 50 reflect more negative than positive responses. There’s more bad news. Individual readings for each of six metrics the index tracks also slipped below 50. 

Asked to provide the reasons for their responses, 60 percent of business leaders cited inflation and 27 percent cited interest rates. Only 6 percent cited recession. Yet, 23 percent of those who responded said they believed the United States is already in recession and 57 percent said they expect the economy to slip into recession next year.

But even as the index and its metrics tracking expectations for the economy, sales, profits, hiring and capital expenditures were down, other indicators offer more encouragement.

The labor market has rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic and remains strong. Nonfarm payrolls in Colorado have increased 1.2 percent above the pre-pandemic peak even as the monthly jobless rate has dropped to 3.5 percent. In Mesa County, payrolls increased 3,382 over the past year — a gain of  4.7 percent — as the seasonally unadjusted jobless rate dropped 2.5 points to 3.3 percent.

Tax collections, a measure of retail sales and lodging activity, continue to increase. 

I’m no economist. I don’t even play one on TV. I’m just an observer who reports the facts.  And maybe I am too optimistic by nature. 

But I hold out hope for the second half of 2022. That the glass, especially here in the Grand Valley, will remain at least half full. If nothing else, I’m grateful to still have a glass.

Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or phil@thebusinesstimes.com.