Welcome to the 2010 pool and spa industry

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Scott WebbThe year 2009 was a tough one. Now that it's dead and gone, we can say that. We can say "that was" instead of "this is."

A number of people slipped into that past-tense at the recent Vegas show, and did it with some sense of relief. The tone was different from the year before. It was calm - neither optimistic nor gloomy. Most of the real anxiety so commonplace during the previous 12 months had been replaced by this steady, even demeanor.

There's a palpable notion that the worst is behind us, and as we step into a new year, it's encouraging to take a look at where we were this time last year and see how far we've come.

In January of 2009, the U.S. economy shed almost 600,000 jobs on top of the 2.6 million lost the year before. The national electronics retail chain Circuit City liquidated its entire inventory of TVs and computers and went out of business - just one of a blizzard of bankruptcies.

The government was dealing with the collapse of large banks and completing its takeover of failing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - companies that together held more than half of the country's mortgages. The Dow Jones industrial average was tumbling head over heels toward an unfathomable bottom (it would land three months later at 6,547, having lost over 50 percent of its value from its high 14 zmonths earlier of 14,164). Many people nearing the end of their careers watched helplessly as the disappearing stock market appeared to take their retirement hopes with it.

Clearly, at the very least, the situation has stabilized. In November 2009 the overall unemployment rate actually improved slightly and appears to be topping out at around 10 percent. We seem to have seen the last of the big bank failures, and one of the big three automakers, Ford, has reported a relatively strong profit. The stock market has come about halfway back.

Last January, most of us gazed upon the incipient year with white knuckles and nervous, darting eyes. New Year's Day 2010 is much more composed.

The economy appears to have taken most or all of the jobs and businesses that it is going to take, and appears ready, perhaps in this bright new year dawning, to give a few back.

Scott Webb
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