Market volatility and the economy

The stock market is in one of its manic phases, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average moving 100 – 200 points daily, both up and down.  This makes people nervous.  Traders are reacting to headlines.  One day its the Euro, the next it’s Greece, or the Fed promising to raise rates.  All this noise obscures what’s really going on.  The economy is actually getting better.  Jobs are getting better.  Corporate America and Main Street America have shed lots of debt.

Statistics are hard to understand.  So here’s a story that may tell you more about the economy than all the talking heads on TV:  Domino’s Pizza.

The CEO of Domino’s is Patrick Doyle.  They employ 250,000 people and sales have climbed from  from about $2 billion to $9 billion in five years.

Mr. Doyle has helped take the company global, with stores operating in 80 nations and expansion plans throughout Asia. In sales, Domino’s is now the No. 1 restaurant chain in India. Sub-Saharan Africa is also among the company’s fastest-growing markets, with a billion people and a growing middle class. “We’ve discovered Africans love pizza,” he says. “They order them on their mobile phones.”

But here’s the point for Americans:

Mr. Doyle is unconditionally bullish on the U.S. economy. “The big story since the recession is that American households and businesses have become lean and efficient and have paid down debts. Consumers finally have money and they are starting to spend it,” he says.

Meanwhile, as the head of one of the nation’s biggest employers, Mr. Doyle sees the effects of what he calls a “tightening of the labor market” firsthand. “Frankly, right now, it’s getting harder and harder to hire. We have shortages of truck drivers and delivery people.”

Such real-world experience makes Domino’s a barometer of sorts. “My take is that the official statistics are underestimating the strength of the labor market. Look, it has been a long, slow recovery. We’re now six years into it and we’ve finally reached the point where there seems to be more demand for labor than there is trained supply.” For job seekers “that is great news, right?”

As for those who fret that only the rich are getting richer and upward mobility isn’t possible, Mr. Doyle says they should pay more attention to what happens at Domino’s. “Over 90% of our 900 franchisees started as an hourly worker in the store,” he says. “Most of them started as delivery drivers at minimum wage. They work their way up. They become a manager. Then they come in, they apply to buy a store.” So from earning $7 or $8 an hour, they now earn $80,000 to $100,000 by operating a franchise. Many have become millionaires. “This is absolutely a story of upward mobility in America.”

So if anyone tells you that jobs can’t be had, Domino’s is having trouble hiring.  And if someone tells you that you can’t achieve the American Dream, ignore them.  Start at the bottom of the ladder and climb to the top.  And don’t let naysayers discourage you.  The government may be an obstacle to economic growth, but so far it is not able to stifle American initiative.


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