While stock indices have risen in recent days, there are still plenty of troubling numbers to ponder as the nation approaches the close of a troubling year. Unemployment spiked higher in November to 5.7 percent. Despite discounting and benign weather many of the nation's retailers say consumers simply aren't turning out for the Christmas season. Adding fuel to the torment, November unemployment spiked higher to 5.7 percent. It seems certain the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates again when it meets next week.
If there is a bright spot in the economic outlook it may be the weather. For the nation's most populated regions mild temperatures have lowered energy costs. For less populated areas, especially the arid west, prospects for a recharge of the region's lifeblood are looking favorable.
The sharp contrast of drought and recent heavy precipitation is prompting a case of optimism in Western states. Over the past 30 days, accumulations of rain and snow are roughly twice the average. That is good news for a region that last year started the snowy season at 44 percent of normal.
But, one snowfall does not an entire snow pack make. The current precipitation comes at the head of a long snow season which typically starts in January. And, the more than 100 inches of powder has not solidified, making it susceptible to melting events such as rain.
Even if this winter brings average precipitation in the West, it still will not erase the effects of the current drought, though it would likely provide adequate water for the summer of 2002. Weather experts claim it will take an above average year to begin to recharge reservoirs and wells which have suffered from back to back drought years.