The bad news is job growth is nonexistent. Hours worked and wages are slipping. Fears of a double-dip recession persist.
The good news is that Mahoning Valley manufacturers, for once on a Labor Day weekend, aren't on the front edge of those troubling trends.
Workers at Trumbull County's current leading economic engine - the General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex - are eyeing more overtime in September to meet demand for their hot-selling product, the Chevrolet Cruze compact car.
The statue of a steelworker is shown in front of the USW Local 1375 Union hall along North Park Avenue.
All but one of the nearly 1,000 union members at the RG Steel LLC steel mill on Warren's south side have been recalled from layoff.
Union members at Delphi Packard Electrical / Electronic Architecture are sadly watching the demolition of part of the auto parts maker's sprawling North River Road, but the Delphi Corp. division is doing some hiring and getting investment dollars.
Even so, labor leaders know the area is never completely out of the line of fire.
Contract talks are under way for United Auto Workers at GM and the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America at Delphi.
United Steelworkers leaders acknowledge the need to work closely with management to deal with the way cautious customers order steel.
And all decry efforts to stifle collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers and privatize public assets.
For now, the area's economy is riding on the Cruze, GM's best-selling car that's helping spark the automaker's comeback from bankruptcy two years ago.
Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 of the Lordstown West Metal Center, said the auto industry is keeping the nation's economy afloat.
"People that work in the industry have decent-paying jobs. They have money to spend. When people aren't making enough to survive, they're not spending," he said.
But the auto industry isn't immune to downward pressures on wages and benefits. Bankruptcy filings by GM and Chrysler in 2009 prompted the UAW to accept a lower level of compensation for some workers, a concession that rankles many workers during ongoing contract talks ahead of the Sept. 14 expiration.
Angry UAW members plan to gather on Labor Day in downtown Detroit to voice their displeasure with lower wages and loss of cost-of-living raises.
Green noted the bankruptcies changed the union from bargaining for better wages and benefits to protecting jobs.
"The bankruptcy put it into perspective," he said. "We want to make sure the company stays viable, but we want to make sure we have jobs in this country."
Some jobs are being added at the Delphi Packard, said Karen Krolopp, president of the 650-member International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 717.
The company also is investing in machinery, giving workers some cause of optimism during contract talks before the Oct. 12 expiration, she said.
But demolition in the middle of the complex has been "very traumatic," Krolopp said.
"You'd see folks walking in or out of the plant just stop in the parking lot and watch in disbelief. Retirees have said they'd pull off the street and watch in disbelief. Those are long-term memories," she said.
Krolopp said the national labor woes won't be solved until manufacturing rebounds. She said employers need to stop exporting jobs overseas, and called for tax incentives to keep jobs in the U.S."
Delphi Packard worker Mike D'Andrea said wages as low as $10 an hour for many union members at the auto parts maker hurt the area's economy through lower taxes and spending in the community.
"That's a fundamental issue with the U.S. economy that no one's addressing. It's definitely a revenue problem," he said.
Jim Graham, president of Local 1112 at the Lordstown East assembly plant, favors the idea of more infrastructure spending to generate jobs and wages, something President Obama is expected to advocate Thursday.
"It's the right thing," Graham said. "Had he addressed jobs at the onset of his administration, before health care, there wouldn't be a thought that he has competition for the 2012 election, not that he does now."
Ed Machingo, president of United Steelworkers Local 1375, said the uncertain economy makes RG customers cautious about buying, preventing a stronger upswing in orders.
"Customers used to buy in bulk. They had warehouses stocked. Now, they only buy what they need," he said. "You miss the days of huge orders. I don't know if they'll ever come back."
Machingo said the murky economy is forcing management and labor to work more closely together to survive. He said he has a "great rapport" with Tom Cera, who manages the Warren plant, along with the Wheeling operaton and Mountain State Coke.
He conceded rapport might not always be as good as now but said, "I hope that's how we do business."
Warren Anderson, whose Anderson-DuBose is building a headquarters and distribution center in Lordstown, said cooperation among political leaders as a major part of the answer.
Asked what he wants to hear Obama to say this week, Anderson said, ''I'd like to hear that the Congress and president will truly work together. Yes, we have a deficit, spending and tax code problem, but no one wins in an acrimonious climate.''