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Optimism key to recovery

A lot of folks are optimistic about Denton County’s economic outlook for 2013, based on factors including a drop in the unemployment rate near the end of the year and favorable holiday sales reports from local merchants.

The news hasn’t all been good — Peterbilt Motors Co. had two rounds of layoffs in July and October — and some other businesses struggled during the year.

Erica Sullivan, economic development analyst for the city of Denton, said that unemployment rose during the summer as it does every year, but that the city’s rate remained lower than the county, state or national averages.

The unemployment rate was on the decline in August and September, held flat in October, and then dropped to 4.8 percent in November, pleasing Denton city officials.

“It is the first time it is below the 5 percent mark, pre-financial crisis levels,” Sullivan told us in December. “… That is promising.”

Natalie Moffitt, workforce development manager with Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, said the overall improvement in the economy is facilitating employment locally.

That’s certainly good news, and as a new year gets under way, we’re picking up a lot of positive vibes from the local marketplace.

While far from overwhelming, the holiday sales rush appears to have been sufficient to help fuel an optimistic outlook among retailers, large and small.

Matt Ludemann, manager of Golden Triangle Mall, told us that he had received positive feedback from mall retailers about sales since Thanksgiving.

We also got positive reports from John Vinson, general manager of the Super Target on Loop 288, and Tony Quintero, store manager for the Walmart on Loop 288.

While most retailers agreed that traffic was slower than they would have liked in mid-December, things picked up during the weekend before Christmas and the season finished with a rush.

We’re hoping the last-minute push will help propel strong sales well into the new year, and some retailers feel that the trend will continue.

Quintero told us that he expects January to be a strong month because people want to see new items that will be hitting store shelves.

We also heard good things from the owners of several specialty businesses.

Beth Klein, co-owner of Sleeping Lizzards gift shop, told us that she and her partner, Roxane Clark, had a great holiday season.

Lora Amyx-Gorman, co-owner of Amyx Fine Jewelry, said in an e-mail during the holiday season that her customers shopped every single day and bought jewelry at all price points.

Tim Loyd, owner of Atomic Candy, said his sales went well, although since his business is new, he wasn’t sure what to expect and was caught off guard.

“I ran out of things way too early,” he told us.

Lisa McCarty, owner of Bella Designs home decor store on Oak Street, said her business had a great holiday season and that she felt people were in the mood to shop.

We like that last point because it emphasizes one of the most positive economic signs of all — the public’s mood appears to be more favorable than it’s been in quite some time.

Sure, economic ups and downs are to be expected, but there are plenty of indications that attitudes are on the rebound and more people are willing to invest in the future.

We’ve got to believe in ourselves.

That’s what it will take to finally get our nation off high-center and on the road to permanent economic recovery.