Gas prices keep dropping, the stock market continues its upward trend and consumers are still spending money in New Jersey but what will happen next?

The Garden State’s top economist says it’s a hard question to answer because we continue to get mixed signals on a number of fronts.

“It’s still a cauldron of uncertainty, the indicators are not aligned with one another, in looking forward our crystal balls are still cloudy,” Rutgers University economist James Hughes said.

“Certainly a number of metrics, a number of indicators are not good, but they are moving in the right direction, for example, inflation has eased slightly at the last reading," he said.

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Is spending money okay right now?

Hughes said consumers are still spending “but they’re trading down, moving into store label products rather than the designer products.”

He said sinking prices at the pump is a positive sign for Garden State residents.

“That’s helping consumer spending, shifting from gasoline to goods and foods and services and the like.”

He pointed out that while employment remains strong the Jersey housing market has cooled off and consumers at the bottom of the income scale are still struggling.

Hughes said with what amounts to only a slight improvement in the economy when the federal reserve meets next month they are certainly expected to raise interest rates again.

“It was almost assured it was going to be .75 points again, but now there may be consideration of only doing a .5% increase,” he said.

He said some believe we are still probably headed into at least a modest recession but “the more optimistic side keeps pointing to the strong job metrics, I think the nation added over half a million jobs unexpectedly in July.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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