Cold Winter to Blame for Sluggish Early-2014 Economy?

The brutal cold of January and February didn’t only slow down drivers on icy roads. In addition, it hindered economic growth in the United States, according to the Beige Book survey released on Wednesday. Overall, improvement was determined to be “modest to moderate,” but certain regions were hit hard, both by snow and economic slowdowns.

That was particularly true in New York and Philadelphia, where there was a dip in activity because of the weather. Retail sales, including the automotive industry, were impacted by consumers choosing to stay warm in their homes rather than heading out to shop. Manufacturing was also hurt, as harsh storms caused factories to lose power and struggle to deal with delayed deliveries.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics notes that hiring should rebound once the weather improves. However, new Fed chairwoman Janet L. Yellen indicated that “the Fed would be watching to see whether the slowdown proved only a temporary blip caused by severe weather,” says a New York Times report.

While the weather might have played a role on the slow early months of 2014, others believe that placing the blame there is simply political posturing.

“Rather than the unusually harsh winter weather, it is the unusually harsh conservatives in Congress who are keeping job growth from its full potential by cutting aggregate demand at a time when we have a $700 billion demand shortfall in the economy, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates,” notes Adam Hersch.

In reality, there is probably a combination of factors — both natural and political — that have influenced growth early in the year. Regardless, finding solutions that will help ensure success throughout the year is important.

One of the ways businesses can help ensure success both now and in the future is by upgrading technical infrastructure in an effort to improve both marketing and sales campaigns. Sales and marketing tools like customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation software are quickly becoming vital components to the sales industry, and can bolster lead generation while reducing costs. They can be used no matter the weather or governmental policies, and are a great asset to businesses looking to grow.

The coming months and the warmer weather of spring should be quite telling of how the U.S. economy will perform throughout 2014. When the impact of storms and the cold subside, it will be easier to gauge how guilty they were in limiting economic growth in January and February.

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