CHICAGO — DECEMBER SAW THE NATION’S ECONOMY adding another 160,000 jobs, although the unemployment rate remained at 7.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job numbers increased in the healthcare, food service, construction, and manufacturing industries.
“December’s report marks 34 straight months of private-sector job growth, which have added close to 5.8 million jobs,” says Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “For nearly three years, steady gains have occurred across different sectors of the economy, and December finishes a strong year of consistent growth with average increases of about 160,000 private-sector jobs per month in 2012.”
THE NON-MANUFACTURING SECTOR ALSO GREW in December for the 36th consecutive month, according to the latest Institute for Supply Management’s Non-Manufacturing Report on Business, with a report of 56.1% in December, which was 1.4 percentage points higher than the November figure.
MORTGAGE APPLICATIONS DECREASED 21.6% for the last two weeks of December, according to the Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The number of refinance applications also decreased—by 23.3%—in the same time period; it was the third week of decreases, bringing the number to its lowest level since April.
According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales were up in November, for the third straight month, and were at the highest level in more than two years. Based on contract signings, the Pending Home Sales Index was up 1.7%, to 106.4. The index was at 111.3 in April 2010, at the time its highest level since 2007.
FROM THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BUSINESS ECONOMICS comes a new Outlook Survey, which asked panelists about economic growth in 2013. A few of the predictions find panelists seeing stable and moderate growth ahead, remaining optimistic that the housing market will continue to improve, foreseeing little improvement in the rate of personal expenditures, and suggesting a slow year for corporations in the new year. Among other predictions, panelists see little increase in inflation and an improvement in the labor market.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE TOOK A PLUNGE in December, as consumers remained pessimistic over a solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff,” their future finances, the job market and the overall economic picture.
“Confidence is lost much more easily than it can be regained,” says Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Survey of Consumers from Thomas Reuters and the University of Michigan, “and the pessimism created by not reaching a resolution before year-end will be difficult to reverse, even if a settlement is reached soon after the start of 2013. … While tax hikes on top incomes will result in spending declines, ending the payroll tax holiday will result in significant losses in confidence and spending.”