As an investor in the global venture capital markets who specializes in growth company investing, I get asked the question a lot about the real economy and what it means for our portfolio companies and how we are advising our management teams. In general, I have been pretty pessimistic about today’s economy and amazed by the positive gap between real economic activity and the trends in the capital market valuations.
One indicator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics caught my attention recently which is the first (concrete?) sign of anything positive in the real economy from my perspective (rather than predictions of the future based on leading economic indicators or overall GDP, which is hard to calculate and does not get calculated very frequently). The professional and businesses services temporary help services employment line appears to be slowly growing. Hopefully, this is a real sign of progress in the labor markets and a good indication that businesses are slowly starting to invest a bit more.
Of course, there is a mosaic of information out there that can get interpreted in a lot of different ways and there is a LOT of noise out there right now (watch CNBC for a couple of hours, for example). I will be keeping my eye on this one in the hopes that it translates into permanent job gains at some point soon.
On a more negative note, even with positive growth coming back to the job markets, however, we have a large hole to dig out of. For a really good analysis, see Mish’s (really thoughtful) analysis of unemployment, which is pretty bleak.