What Does Black Friday Weekend Say About Our Economy?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Over the last few months, campaign ads drew our attention to the state of our economy. Polling of voters routinely reported that jobs and the economy were the top issues of importance to citizens.

In fact, upon the release of any new data about the economy, pundits were quick to analyze its effect on the election.

But with the election now in the past, the way we look at the economy has changed. Instead of asking how our elected leaders will create jobs, our entire focus has shifted to how our spending will boost economic numbers.

That spending has been focused on days with some old and some new nicknames. Gray Thursday (a day some old fashioned people call “Thanksgiving”), Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are all now known as Black Friday weekend.

Instead of waiting for reports about jobs or housing construction, details of how much all of us spent this weekend seem to rule the day when it comes to how our economy is performing.

If our collective spending this weekend is any sign, then our economy must be doing very well since initial figures show that consumer spending rose 9.2 percent over last year, translating to an increase of $25 more spending per person.

Experts are also giddy over the potential of Cyber Monday. Some predict that 129 million Americans will buy something online on Cyber Monday. If those expectations come true, that’s nearly 25 percent of all Americans making some sort of purchase online.

By those numbers alone, without further analysis, one might think our economy is just fine.

However, there are a variety of problems with using consumer spending over one weekend to determine any economic recovery. Among the most important problems with this theory is that it doesn’t take into consideration how much of our spending this weekend was done on credit cards.

I don’t have any statistics handy, but I cannot imagine that the majority of Americans paid cash for those door-buster specials on Friday morning.

Our own comfort level with spending on credit explains why we haven’t really held our elected leaders’ feet to the fire on the national debt. If we are okay spending on our own credit cards, we’re likely to be less worried about the country’s growing credit card bill.

I’m not an economist, and I have never even played one on TV, so I’m unsure what data should be used to accurately analyze the state of our economy. I imagine when it comes down to it, the question for everyone comes down to a very personal answer.

If experts say numbers are up, but I’m unemployed, the economy is lousy. If I just got a new job with more money than the last one I had, then the economy is great. It may just be that simple.

What is not simple is how we look at Black Friday and consumer spending overall.

Is all consumer spending good, or is should we be more judgmental? Does spending at any costs eventually boost the entire economy, making it worth the possible credit card crunch? Do the deals offered by stores actually make the situation better for consumers?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. All I know is that if we told candidates throughout 2012 that the economy was the most important thing to focus on, we should remain consistent and follow our own directions. In the end, it will be how we handle our own resources that determines the direction of our economy.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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