More signs of mixed, but continuing recovery

Among the noteworthy news of the week, several  examples of the continuing economic recovery include:

  • Home Depot, the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, is adding store jobs for the first time in four years in anticipation of a rebound in sales.
  • Carload freight traffic on U.S. railroads is hit its highest level since November 2008 during the week ended March 27, 2010.
  • The ISM Business Activity Index for non-manufacturing industries has now been in expansion (index > 50) for seven out of the last eight months, and for four straight months, both for the first time in almost two years. The last time the Business Activity Index was at 60 or higher was April 2006, almost four years ago.
  • Manufacturing employment has increased for the last three months, the first time in four years of three consecutive monthly increases.
  • The number of temporary help workers increased in March by 40,200 to 2,037,000 employees, the highest level since December 2008.
  • U.S. employers created jobs at the fastest pace in three years in March, but nearly one-third came from temporary hiring for the Census, indicating the labor market has still some way to go to recover.
  • GDP has seen a recent boost due to the slowing of inventory contraction, but a real build in inventories will have an even larger impact on future GDP figures and hiring.
  • The Ten Year treasury yield hit 4.0% this morning for the first time since Oct 2008. Mortgage rates are moving up too and that probably means that refinance activity will decline sharply.
  • Usually housing starts and residential construction employment lead the economy out of a recession, but not this time because of the huge overhang of existing housing units.
  • The recently announced plans for mortgage modification probably won’t help the housing market. What will? Population growth and an improving job market.
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