Analysts have called the current state of the U.S. economy the country's worst slump in 70 years. Despite a slight return to growth in the latter part of this year, the unemployment rate still soared to 10.2 percent (the highest U.S. jobless level in more than 25 years), the flow of credit remains constrained and economic activity is weak.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows what to expect in 2010 but probably a continued uphill battle. In fact, in late November, President Obama's National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers noted that the jobless rate may worsen before it improves. Nevertheless, in a recent speech at the Economic Club of New York, Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke stressed the need to restore and rebuild the battered economy.
"The stabilization of financial markets and the gradual restoration of confidence are in turn helping to provide a necessary foundation for economic recovery. We are seeing early evidence of that recovery: Real gross domestic product in the United States rose an estimated 3.5 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter, following four consecutive quarters of decline. Most forecasters anticipate another moderate gain in the fourth quarter.
"My own view is that the recent pickup reflects more than purely temporary factors and that continued growth next year is likely. However, some important headwinds—in particular, constrained bank lending and a weak job market—likely will prevent the expansion from being as robust as we would hope."
Many industry leaders are trying to stay positive, but are approaching the next year cautiously. Only time will truly tell what the future will hold.
Here, leading manufacturers offer their predictions for the new year.
Mark Cupach, director, national sales, Business Stationery, Cleveland
Late 2008 and all of 2009 was a transition from a growth economy to a period of recession; 2010 will represent another transitional phase from recession to slow growth. With unemployment rates forecasted to remain at or around the 10 percent level, business growth will be controlled in a slow upward curve. End-users will continue to rely on distributor and print reseller partners to bring them efficiencies in hard product cost savings and productivity gains via e-commerce and other value-added solutions. A closer relationship between trade manufacturers and software as service providers to improve interoperability challenges will benefit the distributor population.