By Jon Keller, WBZBy Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Which do you want first? The good news coming out of the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of New England business? Or the bad news?

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Let’s start with the good news. Out of the 12 regions the Fed divides the country into, New England was one of only five that reported moderate growth. Home sales are up. So are rents, and consumer sales of clothing and shoes. Layoffs are scarce.

Read: More From Jon Keller

Sorry, but that’s about it for good news.

The bad news is, most businesses aren’t hiring. They’re waiting to see more demand, they tell the Fed. But demand isn’t showing. Low-end office space goes begging. No-frills shoppers are reluctant to buy furniture and electronic gadgets. How many of those new home sales are people swallowing large losses from the crash?

The buzzword that just won’t quit is “uncertainty,” and it’s not hard to see why managers and consumers are reluctant to spend.

Our regional economy is closely tied to Europe and the Pentagon, and both of those markets are in turmoil right now. And when we look at Washington, who do we see taking charge in either party who inspires confidence rather than fear and loathing?

Some people thought Gov. Patrick’s re-election two years ago was a validation of his “don’t worry, be happy” spin on our recovery from recession, but if people felt that way then, it seems they no longer do. The Fed’s report pointed out that we were actually one of the three worst regions for retail sales, a sign of consumer doubt.

All I know is everywhere I go, I ask people “how’s business?” and most of them say “not great.” That seems unlikely to change much until Congress decides if we’re diving off the tax-hike spending-cut cliff in January.

And when you consider who’ll be making that decision, it’s chilling.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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