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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

May 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM

A ‘self-sustaining’ recovery? Not so fast

So how’s that recovery working out for you? According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, e-commerce retail sales rose in the first quarter to reach a record of $46 billion. That compares with $5 billion in 2000.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, owner of the former Washington Mutual, the recovery has reached a “self-sustaining” level. That, at least, is what he told shareholders at the annual meeting today.

And yet Wal-Mart, the bellwether of middle America, showed a more mixed picture. Profits rose 3 percent, beating Wall Street expectations, but the retail giant’s troubles continue. U.S. same-store sales, which track stores that have been open a year or more and is a better yardstick of performance, fell 1.1 percent.

Is this because customers have become disenchanted with the way the Beast of Bentonville treats employees, drives down wages across the economy, destroys Main Street retailers and does so much business with China? We could only wish. The reality seems to be that strapped Americans are either continuing to cut back, or shopping at dollar stores for things they once bought at Wal-Mart.

Nearly 14 million remain officially unemployed, with millions more in temp work when they want full-time jobs or falling off the charts because they can’t find work at all. Many are still hit by the housing bust. Now rising prices are eating wallets. Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke has a different take on America’s recovery, telling reporters that business outside the U.S. “remains the key growth driver for our company.”

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Seven-three-seven

Boeing’s old reliable

Has jobs flying high

Comments | More in Recovery, Retail

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