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Friday Economic Snapshot: Dark clouds may be parting

Sun-sailing-Tom-Bech

Photo Credit: Tom Bech, Flickr.

By Tom Kaiser
March 14, 2014
Filed under Features, Top Stories

As the world holds its breath over the missing jetliner and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk visits Washington for reassurance, the global economy appears poised for steady growth to persist throughout 2014.

In the last week in the U.S., we’ve seen a stable stock market, a quickly shrinking federal deficit, rising gas prices, declining unemployment claims, improving retail sales and more job openings than any time in recent years.

Abroad, pessimism has grown over the nonexistent European recovery and growing fear over the size and manageability of China’s public and private debt.

Dark clouds remain, but the sunshine poking through has been just as persistent. Let’s take a look.

Job Openings

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes the week’s most discussed economic news showing 4 million job openings on the last day of business in January. This is little changed from January’s numbers.

Looking at trends going back several years, job openings have been increasing quickly, while layoffs and hires have increased at a much slower rate. This could portend better job growth in coming months, which would be viewed as a sign of major improvement in the American economy.

Retail Sales

While the price of gas has been going up quickly, topping $3.75 in many states when $4 is a significant psychological barrier for consumers, retail sales were up 1.5 percent in February from the same month in 2013.

While it was a modest gain, the results beat consensus expectations. Retail figures for December and January were both revised downward, however experts continue to suggest the harsh winter weather has taken a significant toll on growth. We’ll find out how significant the weather was in coming weeks as warmer weather descends upon the northern states.

Unemployment claims

In the week ending March 8, the Department of Labor reports that seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims fell 9,000 to 315,000. This drops our four-week moving average to 330,500.

While gains have been slight, the steadily improving unemployment situation may put us in territory not seen since mid 2007, before the economy started getting all sketchy on us.

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