Economy continues sluggish recovery, economists say

Economic experts have declared the recession over, but unemployment remains at around 9%.

Bob Allsbrook, the Chief Economist for Regions Financial, closely monitors economic trends and what consumers and businesses think about the economy.

"Consumers do not feel like things are ok," Allsbrook said.   "Consumers feel like it ought to be called a recession even though officially it doesn't meet those criteria at all."

Allsbrook said there is a number of reasons why companies just aren't hiring like they normally would during an economic rebound.

"They figured out how to produce a lot more with fewer workers," he said.  "It's called productivity but it's also called unemployment, that's the other side of it."

Allsbrook also says businesses are having trouble forecasting demand for goods and services and also forecasting their health care costs.  And even the education of the workforce may have something to do with why companies aren't hiring.

"They have a lot of the jobs available but they can't find the workers who have the skills for those jobs,"  Allsbrook said.

There's yet another cause for consumer anxiety: gas prices.  While Allsbrook does expect them to decline over the next few months, he doesn't thinks they won't fall below $3 a gallon as they did in 2008.

"That makes sense to me to say gasoline is not going to collapse down a dollar, dollar and a half, or whatever that was," Allsbrook said.  "We need to keep that in mind in terms of how it affects the money we have left over to go to Disney World, let's say or go to Destin or Orange Beach."

Allsbrook said debates in Washington over the debt ceiling and government spending will have a lot to do with how the economy recovers moving forward.  But he and other economists say cutting spending too much could hurt the recovery.

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