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What We're Reading: The Good Friday edition
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US economy shows modest growth in uphill climb

Time and time again, the housing recovery has been deemed a reflector of overall U.S. economic health. And right now, both seem to be showing fairly modest growth.

In the week ending Feb. 23, seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims dropped to 344,000. This is 22,000 fewer than the previous week’s revised total of 366,000 filings, according to the United States Department of Labor.

However, according to analysts at Econoday, this is nothing to get too excited about, as this drop follows an upwardly revised spike of 24,000 one-week prior.

"What may be signaling improvement are continuing claims which for the Feb. 16 fell a sizable 91,000 to 3.074 million with the four-week average down 36,000 to a recovery low of 3.155 million," said Econoday.

Also at a recovery low is the unemployment rate for insured workers, which is at 2.4%, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point.

"Initial jobless claims have been more or less stable throughout February and other survey measures of both firing and hiring point to little change," experts at Capital Economics said.

According to Capital Economics, payroll employment increased by 175,000 filings in February. "Assuming that the household survey shows a similar gain in employment and there are no wild swings in the size of the labor force, this suggests that the unemployment rate remained at 7.9%," said Capital Economics.

Average hourly earnings in the U.S. are showing recent acceleration, indicating that the high unemployment rate is down because of structural factors rather than cyclical weakness, Capital Economics noted.

From the third quarter to the fourth quarter, the real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the U.S. — rose at a rate of 0.1%, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The data from BEA revealed two key points regarding GDP. Firstly, inventory investment was held back more than originally believed. "This may have been due to hesitation by businesses about fiscal cliff issues. Odds are that there will be inventory rebuild in the first half, adding to growth," experts at Econoday noted.

"Second, inflation is low, allowing the Fed to keep a loose monetary policy. While the fourth quarter numbers were disappointing, forward momentum appears to have improved."

mhopkins@housingwire.com 

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