After a report by Jeffrey Brown on the year in economic news, business writers from across the country reflect on how the ups and downs of the business world have impacted local communities.
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How is the national economic picture looking from Main Street, USA? Jeffrey Brown has that story.
As the holiday shopping season reached its climax this week, concerns about the U.S. economy were much on the minds of shoppers, businessmen and policymakers alike.
The key question:
Are we headed for a recession?
While retailers held out hopes, early tallies suggested that sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas had probably not been as robust as expected.
Elsewhere, the depths of the housing crisis remain a major uncertainty. Home foreclosures for November were up more than threefold from a year ago. Home prices have been falling in many parts of the country, and new home construction recently plummeted to its lowest level in 16 years.
Energy costs are also being watched, as the Energy Department predicted gas prices will rise to a nationwide average of $3.11 per gallon next year, a 10 percent increase from 2007.
And the dollar's slide has continued. This year, the dollar fell 9 percent against the euro, making foreign travel and imports more expensive, but helping some American industries export their products.
In the meantime, Wall Street markets are still up for the year, but volatility has been the watchword of the last few months, with single-day declines of 200 or more points becoming routine.
The most recent employment data showed a mixed picture of job losses and gains in different sectors of the economy, while the overall unemployment figure held steady.
For its part, the Federal Reserve has pushed through several interest rate cuts in the hope that that will be enough to keep the economy from tilting further south.
And we take our own snapshot around the country now with four business writers and editors. Michael Armstrong is deputy business editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Susan Tompor is a business and financial columnist at the Detroit Free Press. Chris Lester is a columnist and business editor at the Kansas City Star. And Kathy Kristof is a reporter and syndicated personal finance columnist for the Los Angeles Times.