APRIL 2014 SHOWED an unexpected upswing with 288,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy, dropping the unemployment rate to 6.3%. After several months of static figures, the number of unemployed decreased by 733,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor reports. The yearly numbers show a 1.9 million decrease in those people classified as unemployed.
THE APRIL BEIGE BOOK from the Federal Reserve Districts’ Board of Governors reported increased economic growth across most of the nation. The Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco districts reported “modest” or “moderate” expansion. Chicago and New York also reported rebounds in the economy. Only Cleveland and St. Louis reported declines. The increases were due mainly to an upswing in consumer spending as the weather improved and foot traffic increased.
The Institute for Supply Management also reported increased economic activity, with manufacturing expanding in April for the 11th straight month. Supply executives reported that overall economic growth was up for the 59th consecutive month. According to the report, says Bradley Holcomb, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, “The April PMI registered 54.9%, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from March’s reading of 53.7%.”
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker commented in an early May statement that U.S. exports rose to $193.9 billion in March, an increase of $3.9 billion over February. First-quarter figures total $576.3 billion, up 3.2% compared to the first quarter of 2013.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, despite lower-than-expected activity in the housing market, predicts sales of existing homes to increase in 2015. The market saw a 9% increase in 2013, to nearly 5.1 million homes sold. The past six months have seen the numbers remain static, but the NAR sees a slight decrease of 3% for the rest of 2014—to about 4.9 million homes sold—and projects an upswing to 5.2 million homes sold in 2015.
RealtyTrac’s statistics show the number of properties in foreclosure in April was down by 1% from March, and down 20% from April 2013.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE improved in April, according to the Surveys of Consumers by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, to its highest level since 2007. The gain appears to be due to consumers having a more positive outlook on their current financial picture as well as a renewed sense of optimism about the country’s economy.
“The most important issue is whether consumers will show greater resistance to the backslides that have repeatedly occurred in the past few years,” says Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist. “While near-term expectations have improved substantially, longer-term expectations for personal finances as well as the overall economy have remained unchanged from a year ago. Hopefully, as the pace of economic growth springs ahead in the coming months, the main beneficiary will be an improvement in long-term economic expectations for personal finances as well as the overall economy.”