Looking Ahead to 2017: Economist Brian Beaulieu Shares Key Positive Economic Indicators

Posted - December 12, 2016

At our 14th annual Shipper Symposium last May, economist and keynote speaker Brian Beaulieu discussed the future of the domestic and global economy. Beaulieu, the CEO of ITR Economics, spoke about current economic trends in manufacturing, retail, oil, gas, automobile, trucking and chemical. He believes that these industries can serve as leading indicators for predicting the future of the economy —and as we’re heading into 2017, we wanted to dig deeper into these indicators. What is Beaulieu looking for that may indicate positive growth in the new year? Keep reading for the highlights he shared at Shipper Symposium.

The Top GDP: Over the last 100 years, the United States has been leading the pack in national GDP. And Beaulieu believes that there are two attributes that determine if a country will be a long-term player in terms of GDP: demographics and natural resources. The U.S. has these specific qualities in abundance, where many other countries lack them — and because America still possesses these key traits, it will continue to be at the top of the list of world economies for the next 50 years.

In fact, the current U.S. population is around 323 million people, and Beaulieu projects that number will grow by another 100 million by 2050. This large number is good news, because Americans like to buy “stuff,” and the projected increase in population will have a positive impact on both the shipping industry and the economy as a whole as the number of American buyers continues to grow.

Consumer Spending: One effective way to determine where a nation’s economy is headed and predict what the future has in store is by using leading indicators. And a key leading indicator that Beaulieu believes accurately depicts the global economy is the United States consumer.

Today in the U.S., “real personal income” is higher than ever before. There is more personal wealth overall, which means that there are fewer people using food stamps and government entitlement programs. As a result of this, Americans have more money in their pockets. Beaulieu believes that “when Americans have more money in their pockets, they spend it; and they do this exceedingly well.” Americans’ clear balance sheets are, in turn, allowing for more money to be spent within the retail industry.

2016 Holiday Retail: We are in the middle of the most important time of year for the retail industry: the holiday season. Retail spending is one of the most influential economic drivers and is an important indicator to watch. Beaulieu pointed out that the growing retail industry – thanks to an increase in available spending in the pockets of Americans – will contribute to a bigger 2016 holiday shopping season than in 2015.

And Beaulieu’s forecast for the 2016 holiday shopping season is supported by statistics recently released by the National Retail Federation: “The NRF expects retail sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurants) to increase a solid 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion. Online sales are forecast to increase between 7 and 10 percent over last year to as much as $117 billion. Retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, in line with last year’s 675,300 holiday positions.”