Friday Economic Snapshot: Glowing optimism

Maybe it’s just here in Minneapolis, but the sun is out, the barren ground is about to turn bright green and it’s clear the seasons have shifted. Seemingly in kind, this week’s economic data is almost exclusively positive.

A glowing report from notably bearish Goldman Sachs chief economic Jan Hatzius, “Rays of Light on the Supply Side,” echoed the chorus of good news adding that U.S. economic growth accelerated swiftly in March and labor force participation is on the rise.

Let’s throw on a layer of sunscreen and get into it.

Unemployment Claims

Hands-down the best economic news of the week is weekly unemployment claims declining to 300,000 — a healthy 32,000-drop from the previous week and the best figure seen since May of 2007. The previous week’s level was revised up 6,000 to 326,000, and the 4-week moving average is now 316,250.

This excellent number combined with positive movement in job openings suggest that, while there remains a disconnect between available job skills and job openings, positive momentum is finally building in terms of job creation.

Job Openings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American job openings increased to 4.2 in February. That’s an increase of nearly 8 percent in the month and 299,000 actual jobs. February’s results show a healing job market, and February’s numbers were the highest since January 2008.

Looking back, the number of actual hires continues to slowly increase at a much slower rate than the number of job openings. The number of monthly “quits” is gradually increasing, which is a positive signal showing Americans having more confidence in being able to trade up or find a new job.

Small Business Optimism

February was a bad month for small business confidence, but the latest Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federal of Independent Business (NFIB) increased 2 points in March.

Specific improvements from small business owners came in plans to increase inventories, expectation of the economy to improve, expecting higher sales, healthier inventories, earnings trends and when asked if now is a good time to expand.

From the report: “While the Index still can’t seem to get above 95, we can be encouraged that the economy is at least crawling forward and not heading in reverse,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.

Read more about the NFIB's survey HERE.

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