Some more good news, by @DavidOAtkins

Some more good news

by David Atkins

Of all the economic indicators out there, trends that indicate a little more confidence and breathing room from the middle class are the most important. That's why this is good to see:

HAVE you been eating more at restaurants with waiters rather than fast-food joints? If so, you are not alone, and that in fact is an indication that the American economy is improving.

Over the 12 months through January, sales at what the government calls full-service restaurants were 8.7 percent higher than in the previous 12 months. That was the fastest pace of growth since the late 1990s, when the economy was booming. Moreover, as is seen in the accompanying charts, that rate was much greater than the rate of growth in sales at limited-service restaurants.

Since those numbers became available 20 years ago, that difference has been a reliable indicator of how the economy is going. When times get tough, people may still eat out, but they cut back.

Of course, the economy's fundamentals are still broken and skewed to the top 1%, and the situation in Europe is still volatile. But that doesn't mean things can't get better within the context of the economy we do have.