Voters, economists weigh in on the economy ahead of Election Day

Voters, economists weigh in on the economy ahead of Election Day

Posted: Updated:
"I love my country and I just like for things to be right," said Sevierville voter Connie Ball. "I love my country and I just like for things to be right," said Sevierville voter Connie Ball.
"I am doing fine this time around. Financially I'm OK," said Quinton Rayford. "I am doing fine this time around. Financially I'm OK," said Quinton Rayford.
UT economist Dr. Bill Fox said the data indicates Tennessee is doing better than it was four years ago, but barely. UT economist Dr. Bill Fox said the data indicates Tennessee is doing better than it was four years ago, but barely.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It is a simple question, one that voters ask themselves every four years.

The answer can enhance or destroy a president's chance for re-election.

On the eve of the 2012 Election, 6 News put that question to voters and to an expert.

While the question is simple, the answer is often not.

Ronald Reagan first raised the question against Jimmy Carter in 1980.

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?" asked Reagan.

At the time, the country was in the midst of an economic swoon. American diplomats were being held hostage in Iran. It was a difficult time.

The answer then to the question 'Are we better off?' cost Jimmy Carter a second term.

But what about today? Are we better off?  The answer almost always depends on who you ask.

East Tennessean Brenda Cameron said no.

"Everything has gone up. Our wages have not gone up to cover everything," said Cameron.

"We don't have the jobs. We need more jobs here and quit sending them overseas. Put them here in these states," Garry West said.

But Quinton Rayford had a different take.

"I can only speak for myself. I am doing fine this time around. Financially I'm OK," he said.

But what about the numbers? What do the facts say about whether we're better off?

Dr. Bill Fox is an economist at the University of Tennessee. Fox has been advising Tennessee governors, both Republican and Democrat, since the 1980s.

"What we tend to look at is average data, which is about how we're doing as a group," he said.

Fox said the data indicates Tennessee is doing better than it was four years ago, but barely. 

Tennessee's unemployment peaked in 2009 at 11%. Now we're at 8.3%. It's an improvement, but still above levels prior to 2008, when the recession began to devastate the economy.

"If you look at it by industry, what you see is retail employment has not come back, wholesale has not come back, manufacturing, while growing, again, is not back to where it was beforehand," said Fox.

As for wage growth, despite what people think, that's up too. Tennessee ranks eighth nationally in payroll growth, rising 6.8% over the past year.

In terms of housing, in the Knoxville metropolitan area, forecasts show a slight decline through the first quarter of next year of 2.6%.  That's expected to be followed by an increase in home prices of 4.2% by 2014.

Still, lots of people are feeling the pinch of a tough economy. But it's not business. Business is booming. Corporate profits are up and stock prices are climbing.

"Businesses got ahead of this recession and when they saw it coming, they began to shed employees like we've never seen before and they cut costs so dramatically, they got back into profitability fairly quickly," said Fox. "And they still haven't added back a lot of those people and found out they don't need them."

And what has that done to consumer confidence? In the early 2000s when recession hit, consumers lead the recovery with aggressive spending.  This time around, Fox doesn't believe that will happen.

"We think that the next year is going to look a lot like 2012 and that is growth, but modest growth, over the next year. So the news is pretty good, but what we're talking about is growth at a level that unemployment will very slowly come down over time," he said.

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's vote, it's clear people are ready for better times.

Connie Ball from Sevierville seemed to speak for everyone. 

"I love my country and I just like for things to be right."

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WATE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.