If history is any guide, Australia’s recovery from recession will be characterised by the same contradictory signals that accompanied the downturn.
There will be sectors and regions heading in different directions.
As housing recovers in response to pent-up demand and improving financial conditions, engineering construction will flag under the weight of the deflated minerals boom.
As the mining boom states of the north and west wilt, the south-east of the country will be aided by federal infrastructure spending.
The recessionary mood might benefit bargain basement stores as upmarket retailers feel the pinch, with the domestic budget holiday sector taking business from international travel.
Bankers may find they are in less demand than civil engineers.
There are emerging signs that another El Nino is on the way.
If so, then some farmers will be doing it tough as the rest of us are enjoying better times.
Overlayed onto these cross-currents will be the natural volatility of economic data.
There are unpredictable seasonal variations, changes to school holidays, and run-of-the-mill survey sampling variations.
Just as the latest month’s weather says little about the climate, the next retail trade or building approvals figures may not tell us much about the underlying trend in economic activity.
And then there are the lags – some indicators turn upward while others are still falling.
The share market is often the first cab off the rank in a recovery.
It may already have seen its low point – despite a three per cent fall on Tuesday June 23, the All Ordinaries index is still 23 per cent above the low reached in March.
Production of goods and services probably has some way to fall, despite the blip up in gross domestic product (GDP) in the March quarter.
Maybe the expansion will begin later this year, although we night not see any confirmation of that in the national accounts until next year.
The real upswing will not begin in earliest until businesses start investing in productive capacity again.
No-one is expecting that until well into next year at the earliest.
The last economic indicator to get back to normal will be employment growth.
After two, or maybe three, years of growth too slow to stop employment from rising, the number of people employed might return to its long-term average growth rate as early as mid-2010, but perhaps not until 2011.
Until then, whether the economy appears to be in recession, starting to turn around, or fully recovered will depend on which state, industry or economic indicator you just happen to be looking at.