by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

My neighborhood UPS Store has always been a handy barometer of economic activity.  In years past the place has been mobbed this close to Christmas, with people sending large numbers of packages (presumably gifts) to friends and family out of state.  This week it's a ghost town - no lines at all. The one person ahead of me the other day was sending a few wrapped presents that fit in a very small box.   I live in a gentrified, fairly well off area in New York City, and the contrast to pre-recession days is disturbing.  If people here can't afford to spend much this season, it must be much worse elsewhere.   I'm not advocating a return to mindless consumerism, but it would be heartening to see some signs of economic activity.  A pulse, if you will.  Right now we all seem to be flatlining.

Retail sales nationwide are actually looking up right now. (Though, contrary to conventional wisdom, holiday gift-giving doesn't jolt the economy as much as you would think.)

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