The U.S. economy, we are now officially told, is in recession -- and has been since March.
But don't tell that to folks in Southeast Missouri who have continued to bolster the local economy even though there were signs and rumors of sluggishness elsewhere.
The science of defining economic trends is sophisticated but difficult, in large part, to understand -- unless you happen to be an economist.
Some measurements speak for themselves:
When the stock market declines, there are measurable indicators that go down. When interest rates fall, they are easily tracked. When bond rates go up, you can watch the daily movement.
But when the country enters a recession, it's a bit more dicey for the average Joe Sixpack or Jane Soccermom to comprehend. Even the big-time economists had to wait almost nine months to apply the "recession" label.
Indeed, the public's understanding of economic swings tend to lag about six months behind those trends.
On that basis, we may be well on our way out of a recession -- but don't know it yet.
In the last 50-plus years, the longest recessions on record are the 16-month slowdowns of the mid-1970s and the early 1980s. All the other recessions lasted six to eight months.
In Cape Girardeau and many surrounding communities, it would have been difficult to persuade shoppers and merchants last weekend that there is much economic softness. Shopping-center parking lots were crammed. Most stores reported brisk customer traffic. Sales were solid.
Indeed, some indicators of the local economy have remained strong well past the so-called March beginning of the official national recession.
Sales-tax revenue in Cape Girardeau County continues to climb, indicating consumers are willing to let loose of their dollars in spite of other economic concerns. Even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did little to stem the economic tide in our neck of the economic woods.
With an extra couple of days of the holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and with lots of shoppers marking off their holiday gift lists, and with continued positive news as U.S. forces lead the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, there is no reason to think this will be anything but a good holiday season as far as retail sales are concerned.
By shopping and supporting our merchants, all of us will be contributing to a quick end to this official recession.