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The Numbers: Consumer Confidence Surges; Job Creation Maintains Steady Climb

CHICAGO — THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S Dallas District reported strong economic activity in the May report, and other districts reported a moderate to modest rate of growth. Manufacturing expanded in all districts, and consumer spending was up slightly, as was tourism. Most other sectors in most districts were also showing signs of improvement, and several districts reported increased hiring.

EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS showed an increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the unemployment rate in May was essentially unchanged at 7.6%, with professional and business services as well as food services and retail trade showing increases.

“(The May) report offers more encouraging evidence that the U.S. economy continues to rebound at a steady, moderate rate – a total of 178,000 new private sector jobs in May,” says Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. “That makes 39 months in a row of growth – in just over three years, the economy has now generated just shy of 7 million jobs.”

Non-manufacturing jobs also increased in May, for the 41st consecutive month, according to the executives surveyed for the latest Institute for Supply Management’s Report on Business. “This indicates continued growth at a slightly faster rate in the non-manufacturing sector,” says Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM’s Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

In another survey, the National Association for Business Economics’ May 2013 Outlook estimates 2.4% growth from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013, and suggests an improvement of 3% in 2014, up considerably from the 1.7% growth in 2012.

THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS reported a May gain of 3.2% in sales for U.S. chain stores from a year ago, the strongest gain reported since January.

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS reported a slight improvement in pending home sales in April, with gains in the Northeast and Midwest helping to offset declines in the West and South. The Pending Home Sales Index increased by 0.3% in April, to 106.0, which was more than 10% above the April 2012 figures.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a decrease of 11.5% in mortgage applications for the last week of May. New foreclosures in April, according to RealtyTrac, were down 5.06%—to 144,790—from March, and foreclosures sold were up 4.56% in March.

A SURGE IN CONSUMER CONFIDENCE was seen in May by the Surveys of Consumers from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. “The surge in consumer confidence is exactly the type of economic jumpstart the Federal Reserve intended to result from its aggressive policies,” explains Chief Economist Richard Curtin. “To be sure, consumers still expressed concerns with their financial prospects, especially about income gains over the longer term. It will take actual and repeated income increases rather than simply a renewed optimistic outlook for consumers to permanently revise their income expectations upward.”



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