Despite economic struggles, shoppers continue to flock to the Champlain Centre Mall in Plattsburgh.
Marylou Shusda used to travel to Plattsburgh from Lyon Mountain two to three times weekly.
Over the past year that dropped to once every couple weeks.
“I definitely don't spend as much,” she said.
Like other North Country residents, Shusda has felt the toll of a staggering economy and rising costs. She and many others cut back in 2011 and are hoping for a stronger 2012.
“I haven't changed my life drastically, but there have been a lot of small changes,” Shusda said.
“Hopefully we can get the world straightened out.”
In fact, Americans are slowly gaining faith that the economy is on an upswing due to a slightly improved job outlook that helped the Consumer Confidence Index rise to its highest level since April, according to a survey by The Conference Board.
The economy produced at least 100,000 new jobs for five straight months, a record not seen since 2006, though confidence is still far below where economists would like to see it.
At the same time, the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits grew by 15,000 recently, to 381,000, according to the Employment and Training Administration.
An Associated Press poll of economists projected U.S. economic growth will speed up in 2012 as long as it is not obstructed by upheavals in Europe. The economy is expected to grow 2.4 percent in 2012, while in 2011 it grew less than 2 percent.
However, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned the U.S. economy is close to faltering and could be significantly impacted, for example, by a default in the Greek debt.
And while the economy may be on a shaky path to slow recovery, other numbers remain disturbing.
Since 2006/07, there has been a 17 percent increase in the number of school students receiving free and reduced lunch nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis.
That same analysis found that between 2008 and 2011, the number of those living on food stamps soared by 50 percent.
Catholic Charities reported that requests for the working poor were up 80 percent and 59 percent for the middle class.
Housing and auto sectors are expected to improve some, but remain below normal levels and, overall, unemployment is not projected to improve much in 2012, with 13.3 million Americas looking for work.
Yet an assessment of shoppers, conducted Dec. 1-14, found that those anticipating more jobs increased to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent and those predicting fewer jobs declined to 20.1 percent from 23.8 percent.
“I think it was pretty evident that last year was financially tough on everyone,” said Megan LaPorte of Plattsburgh. “Everyone is in debt nowadays. It used to not be like that.”
Most people the 21-year-old knows struggle to cover rent and their bills. She finds that her friends spend much time worrying about money.
“You have to pay attention to every dime that goes out,” LaPorte said. “I don't have any friends who can afford to go out.”
She hopes for serious changes in a 2012.
“My only hope is the economy can get back to the point where it is not so difficult to afford the basic necessities.”
David Drake believes that will require a change in administration. The Vermontville man would like to see someone new, specifically a republican and conservative, in the White House.
He's had to tighten his belt financially, including less travel and vehicle use.
“I think not enough has been done by the current administration to overcome this downward trend.”
People like to blame the previous administration, but Drake believes that, “liberal policies are a very real part of the reason for this economic situation.”