CHICAGO — SEVERAL ECONOMIC FACTORS showed some gains in July, and the unemployment rate decreased slightly to 7.4%, with better jobs numbers reported in retail trade, food services, financial sectors and wholesale trade.
Job openings were static, with about 3.9 million openings reported at the end of June, basically the same number as in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the U.S. Department of Labor reported that as of Aug. 3, seasonally adjusted unemployment insurance claims stood at 333,000, up 5,000 from the previous week.
THE HOUSING INDUSTRY reported strong numbers in the second quarter of 2013, with median home prices continuing to rise in most metropolitan areas. The national price of a single-family home increased 87%, the strongest year-to-year gain in almost eight years, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says tight inventory is continuing to drive home prices. “There continue to be more buyers than sellers, and that is placing pressure on home prices, with multiple bids common in some areas of the country,” he says. “Higher interest rates are now causing sales to level out, but the tight supply conditions look to be with us for the balance of the year in most of the country.”
Delinquent mortgage rates were down 6.96% at the end of the second quarter, another figure that was at its best level since 2008, reports the Mortgage Bankers Association. RealtyTrac data shows foreclosures were down 5.43% in May, and new foreclosures were down in June by 13.69%.
THE FEDERAL RESERVE DISTRICTS indicate an increase in overall economic growth, with the 12 districts reporting modest to moderate growth, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Most districts showed expanding manufacturing figures, an overall increase in consumer spending as well as auto sales, and transportation was stable or increased in several districts. Weather affected tourism numbers slightly, though most districts reported strong numbers. And real estate and construction were both up for a moderate to strong showing.
THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING Centers reports a net income increase for the second quarter that was the strongest gain since 2008. U.S. shopping centers saw income up 7.5% from the same time frame last year. The industry has shown increases for five consecutive quarters.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE AGAIN WAS UP in July, according to the Surveys of Consumers from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. It marked the third straight month of high confidence. Levels are higher than at any time since July 2007, and bodes well for continued increases in consumer spending in the future.
“The July survey suggests a growing resilience among consumers that will enable them to more easily withstand the cross-current inevitable in a slow growth economy,” says Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist. “This was a robust sign that consumers expect the expansion to continue and act to speed up their buying plans.”