No one raised a banner over Wall Street proclaiming this, but 2011 - a full four years removed from the calamities that spawned the Great Recession - seemed to promise a marked, tangible economic recovery in the United States and beyond.
The recovery would not be uniform, of course. Places such as Florida, Arizona, Nevada, maybe Michigan, cursed with real estate crashes and hobbled industries, would continue to suffer. But the Philadelphia region, where the locals chirp that they never enjoy the great economic highs nor the catastrophic economic lows, would see improvement.
But that is not happening.
One week away from 2011's halfway point, things are lousy most everywhere. The trifecta of a weak economic forecast, unrelenting unemployment, and - a relative newcomer to the gloom - eurozone debt has stonewalled any recovery.
The markets have little to show in gains for the first six months of the year. The gross domestic product report Friday is likely to be disappointing.
Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, heretofore something of an optimist about the near future of the economy, allowed his confidence to slip Wednesday: "We don't have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting," Bernanke said.
So, what to expect? We posed questions to a few experts.
1. Why is the economy growing so slowly?
"We are facing the aftermath of a financial crisis and the end of the stimulus. Consumer spending is down because people are saving more and trying to correct for the loss of their housing and stock wealth. Lack of demand means that businesses are not selling and in turn they are not hiring, causing the unemployment to go up." - Lawrence Mishel, president, Economic Policy Institute, Washington.
2. How can the government address this problem?
Two economists urged raising the debt ceiling.
"Large spending cuts could dramatically increase unemployment and put us in a double-dip recession. Now is not the time [to solve the debt issue]." - Mishel
"I think right now, the quickest solution would be to raise the debt ceiling in order to boost investor and consumer confidence. They need to raise it sooner rather than later." - Ryan Sweet, senior economist, Moody's Analytics Inc., West Chester.
3. When will the employment rate improve in the Philadelphia region?
"I think Philadelphia's economy is moving in the right direction. We project that it will decline to 7 percent by 2013. Philadelphia's economy is faring better than its Northeast counterparts." - Sweet
4. When will real estate values rebound in the Philadelphia region?
"I don't know anybody who can truly predict when we are going to get back to 2005 home prices. In Philadelphia, the market has not taken as big of a dip as some other areas in the country. As long as interest rates remain low, housing prices will probably recover to 2005 levels in five to seven years, at a minimum. In my opinion, we have hit the bottom in housing prices from 2008-09. - Noah Ostroff, agent, Coldwell Banker Preferred, Philadelphia.
"House prices held up fairly well. We are not forecasting any additional declines for this region." - Sweet
5. Do you think the slowdown in the recovery is only temporary?
"Yes." - Sweet
"The current slowdown is partly temporary. The recovery itself has been more timid than we need."
6. Give us a reason to be optimistic.
"For one, oil prices are falling. Consumers across the country will see relief at the pump. The drop in oil prices will be like a tax cut. I think by 2012, the U.S. economy will be off and running." - Sweet
"I'm going to be a granddaddy in August . . . nothing about the economy." More seriously, "People deciding the policy right now are basically telling America, 'You are going to need to tough it out.' " - Mishel
7. How big a deal is the Greek debt crisis really, as it regards the U.S. economy?
It is a reason for concern. If Greece defaults on its debt, "You will likely see negative reaction in the U.S. financial market." - Sweet
"If they default and that leads to a financial crisis, then that can be a big problem." - Mishel