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The Numbers: Lower Unemployment Boosts Consumer Confidence

CHICAGO — STUNNING FORECASTERS, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8% in September, the lowest rate since January 2009.

“Our nation's labor market added 114,000 non-farm payroll jobs in September,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “Additionally, 86,000 more Americans found jobs in July and August than had been previously reported.”

SHOWING MODEST ECONOMIC GROWTH, the 12 Federal Reserve Districts of the Federal Reserve Bank reported consumer spending was generally good for the October report. Only the New York, Chicago and Kansas City districts reported flat or soft sales. Existing home sales were stronger in most districts, with prices steady or increasing, and overall loan activity was steady to stronger in most districts.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION announced a $40 million initiative to help companies create jobs and to invest in the United States. Titled “Make It In America Challenge,” the initiative aims to accelerate insourcing, keeping jobs in the United States and helping companies bring jobs back to the country while making additional investments. The challenge builds on the administration’s approach to strengthen the country’s economy from the bottom up, by creating jobs at the local, regional and state levels.

MORTGAGE REFINANCE APPLICATIONS were at their highest level since 2009, increasing 20% in the fourth week of September, as the rates dropped to record lows, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Pending homes sales fell in August, says the National Association of Realtors, but rates are still higher than a year ago. The Pending Home Sales Index decreased by 2.6% to 99.2 in August, down from July’s 101.9. The August 2011 rate, however, was at 89.6. The numbers reflect contracts, not closings.

THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR expanded in September after three months of slight decreases, according to the Institute for Supply Management. In non-manufacturing sectors, growth was seen in September for the 33rd straight month.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE took a strong upturn with the improved employment rate, according to the Surveys of Consumers from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. Consumers now expect the economy to create more jobs in the next year, and higher stock prices and rising home values helped to increase overall confidence as well.

“Consumers reported some small gains in their financial situation,” says Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist. “The improvement was due to a reduction in their debt levels and an increase in the value of their assets … Nonetheless, consumers anticipate a rocky economic road ahead.”


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