Much like the U.S. economy, Paul Scharfman’s cheese business in Wisconsin is thriving.

Sales at Scharfman’s Specialty Cheese Company, based in Reeseville, have increased between 10 and 20 percent every year for the past few years.

Signboard for Specialty Cheese Company (Courtesy of Specialty Cheese Co.)
(Courtesy photo)

Part of that stems from the world’s love of cheese: His 175-employee company produces and exports many types of cheeses, including those popular in Central and South America, India and the Middle East.

But his company’s success also reflects the strength of the U.S. market. “We serve growing portions of a growing American economy,” Scharfman explains.

Economists agree that the U.S. economy has improved dramatically and across the board.

“It’s been a long, hard road, but we have finally attained a recovery from the financial crisis and the Great Recession,” John C. Williams, president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, recently told the Economic Club of Las Vegas.

Several financial indicators illustrate his point:

Strong stock market

First, the U.S. stock market has reached record levels. Take the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P 500) — a favored barometer because it lists the stock prices of 500 companies, some mature and some fast-growing, across many industries. As the share prices of many of its companies rise, the index rises.

The S&P 500 has risen from its recession low (March 2009) at 684 points to more than 2,500 points this year, reaching a historic high. The strong S&P 500 “reflects confidence that the economy is going to keep growing,” explains William Cline of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank in Washington.

Chart showing growth of S&P 500 index 2007-2017 (State Dept.)

More jobs

Economists also follow trends in employers hiring new workers. The government reports more than 1.4 million new jobs have been added since January. The hiring data for August show the U.S. achieving its 83rd consecutive month of jobs growth. The streak, which began in October 2010, is the longest in U.S. history.

The August jobs report shows a low unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, up slightly from 4.3 percent. The 4.3 percent rate met a 16-year low set previously in May 2001.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta says the latest numbers reflect “continued economic strength and optimism spreading across the United States.”
Chart showing number of people hired 2007-2017 (State Dept.)

Broad growth

Experts also look to the gross domestic product (GDP), or economic growth. It is the total value of goods and services produced by a country in a given time period.

The U.S. economy grew at a 3 percent rate during the second quarter of 2017. President Trump has said, “We can go much higher than 3 percent. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

The president says that if the U.S. sustains a 3-percent-growth pace, it will translate into 12 million new U.S. jobs and $10 trillion of new economic activity over the next decade.

“The United States remains a key player in the global economy,” explains Nigel Pain of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “It’s an important market for [other] economies looking to boost growth.”

For the first time since 2007, all of the 35 democratic countries with market economies that make up the OECD expect to experience GDP growth in 2017.

Chart showing economic growth of OECD countries and U.S. 2007-2017 (State Dept.)Solid lenders

Businesses rely on bank loans to open their doors or expand their operations, which can drive further growth in the U.S. and abroad.

Here too, the news is good.

The central bank of the United States, also known as the Fed, announced in June that for the first time since it began “stress tests” in 2011 of the biggest U.S. banks, all 34 of them have sufficient cash on hand to continue lending during a potential worldwide economic downturn.

Person passing money to another through opening under glass wall (Shutterstock)

U.S. banks are crucial to the world economy, according to Brian Daner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “For U.S. banks to be in such a superior, well-capitalized position means that there is a degree of security in the global economy,” Daner says.

Two major hurricanes that hit the United States in August and September could cause slight downturns in both GDP growth and hiring, but most economic experts suggest that these would be temporary impacts on the economy.

Scharfman feels good about the future of his Specialty Cheese Company and of the global economy. “When the U.S. economy is healthy it demands more inputs from around the world  — benefiting everyone,” he says.

This article was written by freelance writer Will Pittinos. Intern Caitlin Quinn contributed.