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The Numbers: Consumer Confidence has ‘Upward Momentum’

CHICAGO — WHILE EMPLOYMENT FIGURES INCREASED in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate remains the same at 7.6%. Many of the figures related to unemployment remain static as well: 11.8 million people are unemployed; the number of long-term unemployed is at 4.3 million, or 36.7% of the total of those unemployed; and 2.6 million people continue to be marginally attached to the labor force.

“(The) report reveals an economy continuing to recover at a promising rate,” says Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. “With the addition of 202,000 private sector jobs in June, that makes 7.2 million private sector jobs over the last 40 consecutive months of growth. … Average hourly earnings are up as well, having risen 10 cents in June and by 51 cents (or 2.2%) over the year.”

REGARDING U.S. EXPORTS, newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker offered some good news while announcing the May figures. Total services and automotive exports hit a record high in May, she reports, although the overall export figure dropped slightly to $187.1 billion from April’s $187.6 billion. Imports also increased in May to $4.4 billion, led by petroleum products.

The Commerce Department also reported an increase of 1.3 million export-related jobs as a result of the National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and create 2 million jobs.

REALTYTRAC REPORTED AN INCREASE in foreclosures sold in April, up 9.7% over March, and an increase in new foreclosures, which were up 2.25% in May over April figures. Those figures go along with the decrease in mortgage applications for the last week of June.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported 11.7% fewer applications from the previous week. Mortgage rates also increased during that time frame, reaching the highest point in two years, resulting in 15% fewer refinance applications as well.

The National Association of Realtors reported a 6.7% increase in pending home sales in May, the highest level since 2006. The Pending Home Sales Index was at 112.3 in May, up from 105.2 in April, and 12.1% above the 2012 figure of 100.2. The report is based on the number of contracts, not the number of closings.

THE LATEST SURVEYS OF CONSUMERS—conducted by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan—shows a higher level of consumer confidence in June. The increase comes from households with incomes above $75,000, mainly based on rising household wealth rather than on jobs or wages.

“Consumers now believe the recovery has achieved an upward momentum that will not be easily reversed,” says Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin. “Few consumers expect the economy to post robust gains … (but they) anticipate continued slow economic progress.”


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