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The Numbers: Indicators Show Conflicting Views of U.S. Economic Health

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(Photo: © iStockphoto.com/CTRd)

Jean Teller |

SINCE THE JUNE MEETING OF the Federal Open Market Committee, a committee of the Federal Reserve System, economic indicators have shown growth to be slower than expected. Inflation also picked up the first half of the year, reflecting increased prices for commodities and imported goods, although energy prices and some commodities have declined in price in recent months.

Those indicators are at odds with reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, which suggest a moderate expansion of economic activity from early April to late May. The report, known as the Beige Book, shows moderate growth in seven districts, with modest growth reported in three more. Steady growth was reported in the Boston district, while the Philadelphia district is the only one to report a slowing economic growth.

U.S. EXPORTS WERE DOWN ONLY SLIGHTLY in April from the previous month. “U.S. exports posted their second-highest level on record in April and despite a variety of global economic challenges, exports in the first four months of 2012 continue to exceed their performance of 2011,” says U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson. April exports — totaling $725.8 billion — were down 0.8% from March 2012 but were still up 6% from the same time frame in 2011.

PENDING HOME SALES WERE DOWN in April by 5.5%, which is still 14.4% higher than April 2011. From RealtyTrac, new foreclosures were down 5.07% from March to April. Mortgage applications were up a seasonally adjusted 1.3% for the week ending June 1, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

THE UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CLAIMS for the week ending June 2 show a decrease of 12,000 initial claims from the previous week. The unadjusted data shows 321,884 claims for that week, compared to 366,816 initial claims in the same week last year.

THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS REPORTS the economy is continuing to improve, led by growth in the manufacturing sector. Ten states report growth in manufacturing employment since January 2011. The bureau also reports the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.2%.

According to Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Surveys of Consumers, from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, “The upbeat consumer reports on jobs could mean that more positive numbers will soon be reported by the government, or that consumers have yet again pushed their expectations beyond the likely performance of the economy. The most likely prospect is that job growth resumes at a modest pace and that confidence remains largely unchanged until after the November election and decisions about tax policy are made.”

About the author

Jean Teller

Contributing Editor, American Trade Magazines

Jean Teller is contributing editor at American Trade Magazines. She can be contacted at jteller@americantrademagazines.com.

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