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The Numbers: Signs of Slight Economic Expansion, but Consumer Confidence Slips

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(Photo: © iStockphoto.com/CTRd)

Jean Teller |

CHICAGO — THE LATEST BEIGE BOOK REPORT, compiled by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System with data from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, shows that the U.S. economy continued to expand slightly in June and early July. Eleven districts noted expanding economic activity.

Early August brought news that the current administration had awarded $9 million in the multi-agency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. The program is designed to spur job and economic growth in rural regions. Economic development partnerships and initiatives in a dozen states—Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia—will receive awards. Last year’s winners generated millions in matching funds, and their projects are expected to create thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

NEW FORECLOSURES WERE down slightly in July, according to RealtyTrac, to 191,925 compared to 197,834 for the prior month. Mortgage applications also declined the week ending Aug. 3, by 1.8%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey, and refinance activity was static, remaining at 81% of total applications.

From data produced by the National Association of Realtors, median prices for existing single-family homes are on the rise in most metropolitan areas, although buyers are finding a lack of inventory in lower price ranges. The median price for an existing home rose 7.3% in the second quarter of 2012, which was the strongest increase since the first quarter of 2006.

THE NON-MANUFACTURING SECTOR showed growth in July for the 31st consecutive month, registering 52.6%, up one-half percentage point from the June number, according to the latest report from the Institute for Supply Management.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS WERE down slightly, says the U.S. Department of Labor, with the first week of August showing a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week. Meanwhile, employers in the private non-farm sector laid off 262,848 workers in the second quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. import prices declined in July—the third straight month—with falling prices for fuel and non-fuel imports adding to the overall drop, the bureau also reported. U.S. export prices rose 0.5% in July after a decline in June.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE SLIPPED in July, according to the Surveys of Consumers from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. U.S. consumers continue to be pessimistic about the future of the country’s economy. “Consumers expect continued economic stagnation since they believe that current economic policies are incapable of solving the problems facing the economy,” says Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist.

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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