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Friday Economic Snapshot: Construction returns to 2009 levels

By By Tom Kaiser

Hopefully you’re feeling pleasantly plump as you bask in the afterglow of the holiday season. While most of the non-retail economy took a bit of a break, we’re back in the swing of things with generally positive economic news in the wake of the holidays.

Let’s dig into it — and do some leg lifts while we’re at it.

Construction Spending

A good indicator that bodes well for future economic growth, the Census Bureau reported that construction spending November came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $934.4 billion, a full percent above October’s figure.

While this one percent may seen insignificant, it’s 5.9 percent higher than November 2012 and is the highest level since March 2009.  Spending on private construction jumped 2.2 percent, residential construction was up 1.9 percent and nonresidential construction increased 2.7 percent above October. Public construction spending was $275 billion, which is 1.8 percent below October.

Consumer Comfort

From Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index comes news that American consumers are feeling more upbeat “than at any time in the previous six years as views on the economy, finance and the buying climate improved.”

The report put the Comfort Index for November 2013 at minus 31.4 for 2013, the highest since 2007. Factors including an improved job market, a rising stock market, swelling home values and holiday shopping all contributed to the figure. It added that wage and employment growth would lead to even larger gains in the index.

Unemployment Claims

On that note, the U.S. Department of Labor released the latest unemployment insurance weekly claims report that showed initial claims decreasing 2,000 from the previous week’s figure. The latest number, 339,000, puts the four-week moving average up 8,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 348,750.

From the report: “The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 21 were in Michigan (+4,865), New York (+3,284), Oregon (+1,901), New Jersey (+1,887), and Kentucky (+1,538), while the largest decreases were in California (-5,429), Illinois (-3,509), Washington (-1,930), Minnesota (-1,627), and Indiana (-1,363).”

With many of the economy’s fundamentals in good shape and set to improve going forward, unemployment and job growth are the two watchwords for 2014.


Tom Kaiser

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