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Vectra Bank Expert Jeff Thredgold

Happy Talk

Written by Jeff Thredgold, President, Thredgold Economic Associates

March 27, 2012

The “dismal science” of economics typically focuses on “bad” news.  We clearly face many significant challenges.  However, there are also many favorable developments taking place within the U.S. economy.  With 20 flights this month and four separate trips to the Eastern Time Zone, I thought I might take the easy route and update our semi-annual “Happy Talk” piece.  This Tea Leaf focuses ONLY on the “good” news…

Consumer-owned stocks rose by $4 trillion in the past 12 months

U.S. economic growth has now been positive for eleven consecutive quarters

Electricity produced by solar panels and wind power in the U.S. rose by 109% and 31%, respectively, last year

Conventional thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.92% in recent weeks, the lowest level in 60 years

For the first time, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty…on less than $1.25 a day…fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008

The country’s net petroleum imports peaked at 60.3% in 2005 and dropped to 49.3% in 2010.  North Dakota this year is expected to supply more oil for domestic use than Saudi Arabia

The U.S. role of dominance in the global economy during the past decade was as clear-cut as at any time since the 1950s

High school graduation rates, while still too low, rose by 3.5% to 75.0% between 2001 and 2009

Smoke-free laws in restaurants, bars, the workplace, etc. reduced the rate of heart attacks by an average of 17% after one year in those communities where the bans had been adopted

The number of violent crimes fell by a surprising large 12% last year versus the prior year

U.S. exports to China have risen roughly 24% per year since 2001, making China the fastest growing market for U.S. goods

The divorce rate dropped by one-third between 1981 and 2008, and is at its lowest level since 1970
Sixty of the world’s top 100 universities are located in the U.S.

The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest level in nearly 70 years of record keeping.  The reasons?  More widespread use of birth control and more girls who “just say no”

Productivity of U.S. workers rose an average of 2.4% annually during the past 10 years, some of the strongest gains in 40 years 

Average U.S. life expectancy has reached 78.2 years (men 75, women 80), the highest ever.  This compares to 76 years in 1995, 68 years in 1950, and 47 years in 1900

Arrests of undocumented migrants trying to cross the southern U.S. border have plummeted to levels not seen since the early 1970s

Even as U.S. economic output (GDP) has climbed by more than 210% since 1970, aggregate emission of six principal air pollutants has plunged by 60%

Roughly 80% of companies that suspended or reduced their 401(k) matches during the past 2-3 years have reinstated them

America produces more steel today than 30 years ago, despite the shuttered plants and slimmed-down work force

Roughly 47% of science and engineering degrees of those ages 25 to 39 are held by women, compared with 21% among those 65 and older

Obesity rates, after surging in the ‘80s and ‘90s, leveled off during the past decade

Roughly 30% of trash was recycled or composted in the latest year, versus 16% in 1990
During the early 1960s, the five-year survival rate from cancer for Americans was one in three.  Today it is two in three…continuing to climb…and the highest in the world

Donations to charity rose 3.8% in 2010, with $291 billion donated by individuals, foundations, and corporations.  As a percentage of GDP, Americans gave twice as much as the next most charitable nation…England.  In 1964, there were 15,000 U.S. foundations.  By 2001, there were 61,000

Men’s contribution to housework has doubled over the past 40 years, while their time spent on child care has tripled

The U.S. accounted for 34% of the funds spent globally on research & development (R&D) during 2010

When comparing economic size and population, the average U.S. worker is 10-12 times more productive than the average worker in China.  Americans won 30 Nobel prizes in science and economics during the past five years.  China?...just one

The number of American volunteers rose 2.6% to 63.4 million in 2009 

The value of a university education for American men and women in terms of future earnings power is nearly twice that of those in the average rich nation 

The infant mortality rate in the U.S. hit a record low in 2009

Just 19.3% of adults said they smoked last year…down from about 21% in 2005….and versus nearly half of the adult population in the early 1950s.  Tobacco sales to minors fell to an all-time low in 2010

Women now make up a record 46% of global MBA candidates.  More than 70% of students surveyed name the U.S. as the top MBA study destination

The U.S. Justice Department said the number of juvenile offenders declined 26% between 2000 and 2008 

More colleges are trimming tuition, with more also offering three-year degrees
Forty-five of the 50 states recorded net job gains during the most recent 12-month period.  Every state had previously dealt with recession at some point during the past three years
A recent poll of more than 12,000 global business figures conducted by the World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. as the world’s most competitive economy

The upward “mobility” of the typical American remains the greatest in the world.  Why?  The U.S. economy “rewards” the combination of hard work and educational achievement more than ever before…and more than any other country in the world

For every dollar of U.S. economic output generated today, we burn less than half as much oil as 30 years ago

Since 2006, the percentage of incoming freshmen who abstain from alcohol has jumped from 38% to 62%

Women now exceed men in holding advanced degrees in the U.S.

U.S. traffic deaths per 100 million miles traveled during 2009 were the lowest on record

Substantiated cases of childhood sexual abuse have fallen 49% since 1990.  Physical abuse of children is down by 43%

Total U.S. workplace fatalities declined to their lowest point on record last year

The number of people using public transportation hit a 52-year high in he latest data available

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the most recently reported year dropped by more than half versus 20 years ago

Children’s deaths from unintentional injury have dropped by almost 40% since 1987.  Bicycle deaths fell 60%, while firearms-related deaths fell 72%

Seat belt usage by Americans was at 85% in 2009, versus 49% in 1990 and 14% in 1983

Finance Expert Right Boarder