A lot of us have already packed up what remains of 2010 -- in our minds, at least -- as we look ahead to 2011. But while the New Year is traditionally associated with cautious optimism, this year's holiday season is showing some palpable signs of economic recovery.

Several recent surveys indicate the number of holiday and end-of-year parties has been increasing this season, especially compared to the past several years. A CareerBuilder poll says 52% of employers it surveyed had plans to throw a holiday party this year for their employers, compared to 49% last year. And while 8% of employers said they had no such plans, that's down from 11% in 2009.

Holiday celebrations may not appear to be the most realistic economic indicator, but some people in the hospitality industry would beg to differ. David Corsun, director of the University of Denver's Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, has some firsthand experience with the current uptick in holiday events. His school has its own event company, managed by a team of five professionals and staffed by students. And the number of holiday parties it catered this December was double that of last year.

"We're seeing the same thing [throughout] the industry, seeing the return of corporate holiday parties," he says. "And not just the return of the parties, but a little bit higher end. For about the last two weeks, any time I've been talking with anyone in the industry they say, 'this is a very good sign, this is a leading indicator.'"

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

Bonnie Fedchock, executive director for the National Association of Catering Executives, says parties and events taking place during the last six to eight weeks of the year generate 15% to 20% of her industry's annual revenue. And in terms of this season, "everyone I've talked to across the country says it's definitely better -- because last year corporate spending was negligible," she says. "The dollar spending is still down from '07 and '08 -- and last year most people canceled or really scaled back their events. In '09 it was almost taboo to do lavish corporate events because it would be considered bad form."

But individuals also seem to be feeling a bit more prosperous ahead of the New Year. "The majority of our [sales revenue] happens in the fourth quarter," says Lorena Ascencios, head wine buyer for Astor Wine and Spirits, one of the largest stores of its kind in New York City. And this year, she says, "we're definitely more comfortable."

One trend she's noticing this holiday season is the sale of a lot more champagne -- that is, actual champagne from France and not the less-expensive sparkling wine. "People are buying [champagne] right now," she says, "for Christmas dinner, for the holidays -- not just for New Year's." And a bottle of good champagne can cost three to five times as much as a similar bottle of sparkling wine.

That largess appears to be spreading to the food currently served at holiday parties, as well. "People revert back to their childhood in hard times," says Fedchock. "Last year everyone reverted back to comfort food -- mac and cheese." This year, she says, people are still watching the bottom line, but they're willing to spend more on locally grown, quality foods for their party tables.

Food and drink are essentials -- and a willingness to spend a bit more on the basics, says Corsun, "comes from the psychological security of those who are employed, who can afford champagne – who say 'we're on the way up, we're not flat.'"

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

72 Comments

Filter by:
Iselin007

The reason you get little or no benefits because it wasn't a real job just a story for the politicians to spin while they outsource the jobs that supported a family and the American Dream. They need to clean out the government we want people that ex[ect good jobs for the unemployed not harrass them and badger them to take crap jobs. Go on disabilty you deserve more than crap

December 29 2010 at 8:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
Iselin007

Hey what white colar crook is pushing this recovery lie? According to the web there is no recovey. Even the underestimated unemployment numbers points to no jobs. Part time low wage age is not a job it's a kids allowance a job supports a adult person puts a roof over his head ect.

December 29 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
neuticlesrock

love the anti-obama comments. those pin heads making the
remarks should remember that the republicans were handed
a perfectly balanced country in 2000 and it took them 8
years to create the economic meltdown. Now the Repulican's
guttered the country in 8 years and are now crying because
the Democrats havent fixed their nightmare messes in 2 years?
Seems the republican's are not only lousey at running a
country their dumb as dirt as well.

December 29 2010 at 1:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
neuticlesrock

The LAST thing Republican's want is a recovering economy
and a return to prosperity.

December 29 2010 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

Will only be short lived. Oil prices are going up so the gas prices at the pump will increase too. The republicans are coming, the republicans are coming.

December 28 2010 at 11:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to toosmart4u's comment
as2010isover

learn to speak chineese people with obamas trillion dollar world failure.

December 28 2010 at 8:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
as2010isover

yeah sure, and im the pope, recovery starts with obamas impeachment and deportation of all libs.

December 28 2010 at 8:29 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
lpi2007

THEY SHOULD OF TOLD THIS TO THE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO DAY IN THE LINE I SAW ON TV TODAY FOR THEIR HEAT TO BE PAID BY THE CITY GOVERNMENT.... THEY COULD ONLY TAKE 1000 THO.. LOUISVILLE PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS, CHECK OUT OUR SITE

December 28 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
lpi2007

THESE DREAMERS NEEDS TO CLEAN OUT THEIR BONGS AND CUT THEIR COCAINE WITH BACON SODA AND THEY'LL END UP COMING OFF THEIR HIGH.... LOUISVILLE PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS, CHECK OUT OUR SITE

December 28 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mule Skinner

Danieltestical no longer comes out after dark

December 28 2010 at 7:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply