Feeling pretty perky lately? Of course you are. Your "misery index" is the lowest it's been in a quarter century.

It's at 6.1 percent to be precise, or at least that's how it ended 1998. And Utah economist Jeff Thredgold expects it to rise only a tenth of a point this year.Most people haven't given much thought to the "misery index" in recent years, but Thredgold, president of Thredgold Economic Associates and consultant to Zions Bank, brings us up to date in the latest issue of his weekly newsletter, "Tea Leaf."

He notes that the index was used in 1976, with great effect, by presidential candidate Jimmy Carter to point out how bad things were under then-President Gerald Ford. The index is simplicity itself: Simply add together the current unemployment rate with the consumer price index, and the sum of the two equals how miserable we are.

Under Ford, the index had been at 17.8 in 1974, 15.5 in 1975 and 12.5 in 1976, high but trending downward all three years. Didn't help, though. Carter swept into the White House, and many pundits gave the misery index at least some credit for his win.

Ironically, instead of moving lower, itshot up every year during Carter's term, topping out at 19.4 in 1980, the highest in the past 25 years and a number that Ronald Reagan noted many times on his own run to the Oval Office.

Noting this boomerang effect, presidential candidates of the past decade haven't dwelled much on the misery effect.

From its all-time low last year of 6.1, Thredgold expects slightly higher unemployment to move the M.I. up this year to 6.2 and to 6.4 in 2000 as consumer prices rise from 1.6 percent to 1.8 percent.

Thredgold notes that those numbers are proof that the economy has made "enormous progress" in reducing consumer pain, especially in this decade.

Strong economic growth, which has spurred creation of new jobs, pushed unemployment down to 4.5 percent last year, the lowest since 1970. Also, fierce worldwide competition in most major industries, along with excess production and weak consumer demand, has driven inflation to its lowest levels in decades.

Is there room for the misery index to go any lower? Not much, says Thredgold, noting that unemployment has already dropped below the expectations of most economists, and current increases in oil prices are likely to begin forcing inflation upward.