Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good Economy, Bad Economy

Right now the economy is "bad." Really bad. Just a few years ago, it was "good." Really good. Now, things may be a bit different where you live, but in my experience, a "good" economy doesn't really mean that things are all that better. I work in the building industry, and as housing goes, so goes the economy. Our industry is a multiplier of the overall economy, so things are said to be feast or famine. Right now is "famine."

But, when the economy is "good", goodness is offset by other things bad. In my metro area, the San Francisco Bay Area, a good economy brings people in droves to Silicon Valley, where all the "good" jobs are, of course, so supply and demand means that the cost of everything shoots up dramatically. Rents and home prices skyrocket, forcing existing dwellers to move further out from the epicenter as newbies force their way in and veterans force their way up. So much economic activity occurs that there really isn't a "feast", but mostly working all the harder and faster to simply keep up with the work load. A feast also includes the free time necessary to enjoy the extra food, by the way. Clients are extra hard on you, cracking the whip in expectation of the impossible in ever tightening schedules. Then the extra work load becomes necessary to keep up with rising costs.

During an economic housing boom, everybody in the industry is employed, so bidding wars start and work shortages occur. Try to hire a contractor during a "good" economy. "We'll get back to you next May." Even if you have an agreement, if you are outbid by somebody else, you are left holding the bag.

Now as the economy is "bad", I'm hearing that many people are "going back to the basics; family, home cooked meals, staying in." During a "good" economy, meals are picked up "to go" from a restaurant so the worker can head back to the office to work late. During a "bad" economy, people stay home to eat with family, but the quality of food is not as great.

I'm not convinced that we are living in an age of prosperity, where things get slightly better all the time, but in an age of roller coasters and merry-go-rounds where things seem to get better, followed by a period where things seem to get worse. We seem to simply trade off catch-22 periods.

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