Archived Story

High gas prices signify better times ahead

Published 9:05am Friday, May 31, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Joel Myhre

It seems that when we’re in an economic downturn, everyone knows it. And when we’re in an economic upturn, it catches us by surprise. I guess it’s sort of like you don’t know you’re happy until you’re not.

Joel Myrhre
Joel Myrhre

I’m not saying that all the news is rosy, but clearly, in the past year or so, the economy has been improving. I’m sure there are going to be conservatives who will read this column and come after me with a litany of reasons why the economy is still in the tank.

Not that there aren’t negative economic statistics. Yes, the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent is still below the pre-2008 level of 4.6 percent. There are also still stories out there of people who have been unemployed for a year or more. You probably still couldn’t sell your house for as much as if you would have if you would have listed it in, say, 2006.

That said, there are signs that things are turning around, and not just the minutia of statistics from some government agency. Here are a few:

The price of gasoline is high. Yes, it’s no fun to have to pay $60 to $75 at the pump at a rate of $4.09 or higher per gallon. However, no matter what oil industry folks say the reason is, usually, gasoline prices go up because the demand goes up, and oil companies know people will pay for gas, at whatever price they choose to sell it for, if they need it.

Have you checked your 401(K) plan lately? If you haven’t, you might be surprised. The stock market has been on the significant rise in the past year or so. Those who didn’t panic after the 2008 crash and stayed put with their investments are now seeing some nice rewards.

Recent news articles suggest a slight downturn in the economy. In order to be in a downturn, that means that we must have been going through an upswing.

In the Wahpeton area, there appears to be a shortage of middle-income housing. Considering that, in about 2009, there were entire neighborhoods in the U.S. that were abandoned due to lack of demand, a shortage is a good thing. While not statistical evidence, a quick look at real estate listings in the area would suggest that home values have improved.

In western North Dakota, of course, the oil industry is prompting an economic boom to an unprecedented level. All you have to know is that, if you’re a civil engineer, welder, truck driver or anyone else with skills related to drilling and transporting oil, and you are single, you probably aren’t reading this column, because you’re somewhere near Williston, N.D., raking in the dough.

Construction in the lakes area appears to be increasing. At least one dealer says boat sales are up as well, despite the late spring. If people are building or remodeling lake cabins and buying boats, then something must be going right.

Are we in the Internet boom of the mid-90s quite yet? Probably not. We also are not in a continuous, no-bumps-in-the-road recovery. Based on recent news, it seems clear that the economy will take a step back as it takes a couple steps forward.

But the economy is cyclical. What goes up comes down, and vice versa.

It’s just too bad we have to pay $4.17 per gallon while we grow.


Joel Myhre is the publisher of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.