Lefty economics reporter  Peter Goodman dropped his usual sad outlook in his front-page story on Monday from Portland, Ore., hyping the recovery: "From the Mall to the Docks, Positive Signs ."
The docks are humming again at this sprawling Pacific port, with clouds of golden dust billowing off the piles of grain spilling into the bellies of giant tankers.
Shoppers at a Gap store in Manhattan. Retail sales increased by 9.1 percent in March at established stores compared with a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters.
"Things are looking up," said Dan Broadie, a longshoreman. No longer killing time at the union hall while waiting for work, instead he is guiding a mechanized spout pouring 44,000 tons of wheat into the Arion SB, bound for the Philippines.
At malls from New Jersey to California, shoppers are snapping up electronics and furniture, as fears of joblessness yield to exuberance over rising stock prices. Tractor trailers and railroad cars haul swelling quantities of goods through transportation corridors, generating paychecks for truckers and repair crews.
Many economists estimate that consumer spending - which makes up some 70 percent of American economic activity - swelled by 4 percent during the first three months of the year, more than the double the pace once anticipated. Some have nudged upward their estimates for economic growth to more than 3 percent this year.
"Consumers are showing extraordinary resilience," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. "There's a lot of pent-up demand out there that is now being unleashed. The whole supply chain system is now being revitalized."
While few dispute signs of recovery across much of the economy, significant debate remains on how robust and sustained it will be. The lingering effects of the financial crisis have some economists envisioning a long stretch of sluggish growth.
But recent months have delivered a stream of news bolstering the notion of a more vigorous recovery. Technology companies have racked up substantial sales. After a decade of painful decline, manufacturing is tentatively adding jobs. Retail sales increased by 9.1 percent in March at established stores compared with a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters, marking the seventh consecutive month of growth. Exports swelled in the first two months of the year by nearly 15 percent compared with a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department.
Still, much of the improvement appears the result of the nearly $800 billion government stimulus program. As that package is largely exhausted late this year, further expansion may hinge on whether consumers keep spending. That probably depends on the job market, which remains weak.
Actually, most economists disagree with that assessment, according to the latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics :
In latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics, the index that measures employment showed job growth for the first time in two years - but a majority of respondents felt the fiscal stimulus had no impact.
NABE conducted the study by polling 68 of its members who work in economic roles at private-sector firms. About 73% of those surveyed said employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the $787 billion Recovery Act, which the White House's Council of Economic Advisers says is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.