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The Numbers: Consumer Confidence at Highest Level in Six Years

With unemployment rates remaining steady, other sectors report slight economic improvement

CHICAGO — THE NATION’S ECONOMIC GROWTH continued at last check, according to reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts for the July-August period. Among the dozen, eight reported moderate growth, three reported modest growth, and one showed improvement.

The reports reflected an increase in consumer spending, with a higher demand for vehicles and household goods, and also showed expanded activity in tourism and travel. The information was included in the September Beige Book from the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve.

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE for August remained steady at 7.3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment was up in retail trade and healthcare, but down in information sectors. The overall numbers remained virtually unchanged from July, with a total figure at 11.3 million of unemployed.

“We have now had 42 straight months of private-sector job growth, with nearly 7.5 million private-sector jobs created over that time,” says Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The unemployment rate continues to remain stable and has now been below 8% for 12 consecutive months.”

IN THE AREA OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker reported that U.S. exports were at an almost record level for the month of July. The overall amount, $189.4 billion, was down slightly from the record of $190.5 billion in goods and services set in June.

MORTGAGE APPLICATIONS were up slightly, by 1.3% for the last week in August, according to the Mortgage Bankers Associations Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. Pending home sales were down in July, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which also issued support of the re-proposed Qualified Residential Mortgage rule.

“The (rule) is a victory for homebuyers and the future of homeownership in this country,” says NAR President Gary Thomas. “This version of the QRM will give creditworthy buyers access to safe and affordable loan products without overly burdensome down-payment requirements.”

THE INSTITUTE FOR SUPPLY MANAGEMENT reports growing economic activity in its latest Non-Manufacturing Report On Business. It is the 44th consecutive month that the survey has shown an increase in positive responses from purchasing and supply executives.

THE JULY SURVEYS OF CONSUMERS reported consumer confidence at its highest level in six years. The report, from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, showed a third month of increasing confidence at higher levels since July 2007.

“The July survey suggests a growing resilience among consumers,” says Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin, “that will enable them to more easily withstand the cross-current inevitable in a slow-growth economy. Mixed trends were evident in July as current economic conditions were judged more favorably while future prospects were viewed slightly less favorably … this was a robust sign that consumers expect the expansion to continue and act to speed up their buying plans.”


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