Readers may have inferred that I am taking a bit of a holiday. I’m currently in coastal Maine (Casco Bay) and have gone to this area at this time of year for the last 20+ years, which makes it possible to judge how the economy here is doing over time (remember, tourism is a major business for Maine and summer, particularly August through Labor Day, is the peak of tourist season).
Given that various seers have become less keen about the recovery thesis, and the Fed is sufficiently concerned that Bernanke has all but promised another round of QE is imminent (as if the last two did much to help people outside the speculative classes), I thought it would make sense to get reader input on what they’ve seen in the last few weeks, particularly if they either live in or visit vacation areas at this time of year.
I’m curious to get other readings on Maine and the US generally, but the indicators here really are mixed. Some spots, particularly in my immediate environs, are clearly busier than last year. I also saw more new shops, mainly of the cute upscale sort, than in quite a few years. But Freeport, home of LL Bean and outlet stores, was stunningly empty over Labor Day weekend (this could be secular, since the Internet has likely reduced the appeal of outlet stores). Boothbay Harbor also seemed less hopping than usual. Traffic generally was a bit heavier than last year. Overall, 2012 seemed somewhat stronger than 2011, but not as good as even 2010, at least in terms of crude indicators like raw visitor levels. And there were more houses for sale this year than any time in the post crisis years. That might net out to signifying that the cohort that has reasonably steady employment is spending more, but the lower tiers of our stratified economy are showing even more visible signs of stress than before.
NC readers: Have you observed anything first hand over the last few weeks that gives you a sense of how your local/holiday economy is doing? If so, what do you make of it?