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The Numbers: Unemployment, Mortgage Applications, Pending Home Sales

CHICAGO — Helping to ring in a better new year are the Federal Reserve Board, the nation’s unemployment numbers and job growth, mortgage applications, and pending home sales.

ALL BUT ONE OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE DISTRICTS reported an increase in economic activity in a report filed Nov. 30. The districts saw a slow to moderate upward trend in consumer spending, with the strongest upticks occurring in vehicle sales and tourism dollars. Manufacturing activity and overall bank lending also increased slightly.

THE NOVEMBER JOBLESS RATE was down to 8.6%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, with an estimated 120,000 jobs added—that’s the fifth month in a row to post 100,000 or more new jobs, a first since April 2006. However, a downswing in wages slightly offset that good news.

The department reports a decrease in the weekly seasonally adjusted unemployment claims in the week ending Dec. 3, as the number went to 381,000 from the previous week’s revised number of 404,000.

MORTGAGE APPLICATIONS WERE UP for the week ending Dec. 2, says the Mortgage Bankers Association, an increase of 12.8% over the previous week. And the National Association of Realtors reports a surge in the pending home sales index, as contract signings increased 10.4% in October, up to 93.3 from September’s 84.5. The index is 9.2% above the October 2010 numbers.

THE NATION’S PURCHASING AND SUPPLY MANAGEMENT EXECUTIVES see a brighter 2012, as the Institute for Supply Management released its December Semiannual Economic Forecast. The group expects a continued economic recovery, forecasting revenues to increase in 17 industries in the manufacturing sector. The non-manufacturing sector is only slightly behind in predictions with 15 industries looking for higher revenues. The report sees capital expenditures increasing only slightly, and static investment in the non-manufacturing sector.

ALL OF THIS BROUGHT CONSUMER CONFIDENCE up for November, according to the Surveys of Consumers, from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. There was a note of caution, however, from the survey, as economists wonder how the lack of action by the congressional Super Committee will affect expectations, and what the impact will be if Congress fails to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, which at press time were set to expire at the end of December 2011.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” says Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist. “The lack of action will significantly raise the likelihood of a renewed recessionary downturn, which is already uncomfortably high.”


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