CEDAR FALLS — Ernie Goss is seeing evidence now of a recession in the economy’s manufacturing, agriculture and energy sectors – a concern for the Midwest and places like the Cedar Valley.
“Everything else is good,” the Creighton University economist said, perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, as worries build of a wider impact on the economy. “That’s huge, of course.”
Goss was speaking Thursday at the 2019 Economic Luncheon. The annual gathering, held at the Diamond Event Center, is sponsored by The Courier and Community Bank & Trust.
When the nation’s gross domestic product declines over two successive quarters, or six months, that is generally defined as a recession.
“If farm income’s down, we’re down,” he noted, addressing the crowd of business people and community leaders. “Economists, we tend to focus on the negative.”
Export markets are facing headwinds, said Goss, as President Donald Trump pushes trade wars, particularly with China. That has an effect on Iowa farmers, whose products are sold there.
“Who’s going to win this? The answer is nobody,” he commented, while expressing hope that the U.S. would come out ahead.
Along with anti-trade sentiment, anti-immigration attitudes are “another problem for us at the national level.” Goss noted that plenty of immigrants are highly ambitious people who can do well in the U.S. and the Midwest.
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“We need immigration,” he said. “I mean legal immigration, legal immigrants coming in.”
Despite recession concerns, “agriculture is surviving, it’s remarkable,” added Goss as he offered some perspective. “Is it the ‘80s? No.”
The 1980s farm crisis devastated the economy and hit Iowa hard. Farm loan defaults are much fewer in the current environment, he pointed out.
“Bankers have been more judicious in loaning, and farmers have been more judicious in borrowing,” said Goss.
The federal government, on the other hand, is less judicious in its borrowing and spending. He noted that the federal deficit is up 27% from 2018, saying “deficits do matter.”
But as the Federal Reserve buys more U.S. Treasury bonds, there is a silver lining for those who want to borrow money.
“What this means to you is they’re going to cap – to some degree – interest rates,” said Goss. “If you need to borrow, now’s the time to borrow. You’re going to see those great rates continue for probably some time.”
Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds are an important indicator on the health of the economy, he added. “Keep your eye on the yield.”