If the recession is over, why do I still feel anxious?


President Clinton once declared, “When you find yourself in a hole, first, stop digging.” According to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of National Bureau of Economic Research, the official U.S. arbiter of economic performance measures, the present economic unpleasantness bottomed out in June 2009. We’ve been climbing out of our hole, however slowly and imperfectly, since then. In effect, at least we stopped digging ourselves in deeper.

Yet, looking around, I don’t observe relief, much less euphoria. I see and feel, instead, persistent anxiety. As every recessionary cycle teaches us, that’s to be expected.

People collectively feel a down-turn in the business cycle only well after it’s started and don’t begin feeling greater consumer confidence until recovery is well established. That lag, however, represents missed opportunity for growth and investment.

Recessionary moments compel change. The newly emergent economy is always a little different than its predecessor. As industries evolve, laying workers off during slow times, economic development policy should be focused on worker education. It’s an old axiom, but getting back to school at critical moments is essential for individuals’, families’ and communities’ future prosperity.

Minnesota’s higher education facilities are full as people expand their tool kits. Conservative public policy advocates are cutting public education infrastructure at exactly the moment that Minnesotans need it most.

Workforce development is an essential public investment. Minnesota’s continued growth hangs on leveraging a smart, skilled, experienced workforce into new jobs in the newly emergent economy. It’s a bit long-winded, I know, but the economic recovery boils down to a single public policy question: Will we move forward, or will we be left behind? Minnesota can invest and grow or withdraw and wither. Confidence in Minnesota’s future dispels anxiety.