Let's Have a Look Back: 2014, The Financial Year in Review

With 2014 all wrapped up, and 2015 in its infancy, we decided to take a look back at the calendar year that just passed and see how the U.S. economy (as a whole) did in some major areas. After looking through the numbers, 2014 was a significant year, helping our country continue to rebound from the Great Recession and set us up for a promising 2015 (and hopefully well beyond).

The Market

Stock and bond markets in the United States proved to perform better than was anticipated in late 2013 as 2014 approached. We saw quite a drop in October, but outside of that jolt, 2014 brought with it only “modest” periods of ups and downs.

  • At year’s end, the S&P 500 was up about 13 percent.
  • According to the Bloomberg U.S. Treasury Bond Index, U.S. Treasuries returned about 5.5 percent, which is the best in 3 years.

The big surprize in this area was the dramatic plunge in crude oil prices, which is good for consumers, but costly to the oil and gas industry, which will likely be cutting jobs soon as 2015 continues and prices likely stay put. The U.S. saw an increase in oil production, thanks to new technology, but this increase made for a larger supply without a jump in demand. Other markets, like China and Europe, dropped in demand, which also helped the price of crude oil drop. From an average high of $3.70 per gallon down to an average of around $2.40 at the year’s end, consumers were excited to fill up their tanks for less in 2014.

The Jobs

It’s an understatement to say 2014 was “good” for jobs ... if you compare the numbers to prior years. In fact, according to CNN, in terms of job creation, 2014 was the best year for our country since the turn of the century (1999 is the most recent year to have been better in this category). Other notes:

  • Our economy added more than 2.6 million payroll jobs throughout the year.
  • Our country’s unemployment rate dropped almost a full percent since the end of 2013.

The Growth

While it was a less than favorable start to the year--with the first quarter actually shrinking at an annualized rate of over 2 percent--2014 proved to show resilience and bounce back rather heartedly. Both the second and third quarters of the year grew at a pace of right around 5 percent. According to most predictions, the fourth quarter grew by around 3 percent (official numbers will come out late this month). Overall, our economy looks to have grown around 2.5 percent, which is a welcome change to the dreary numbers clocked in over the past few years.

All in all, 2014 gave us reasons to be optimistic as our economy showed promising signs of growth throughout the year. Now, after looking in the past this whole post, let’s get back to the present; it’s a new year! Here’s to 2015 everybody.