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Manufacturing Sector Expands in February's Advance Durable Goods Report

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released advance durable goods data for February 2011. The report contains a couple of noteworthy themes, one being that part of the manufacturing sector continues to expand (with the help of foreign demand), and another being that the pace of investment might be slowing some in the first quarter.

Business Startups: Why Entrepreneurs Didn't Start Up in 2009 and Why That's Likely to Change

Today we're talking about newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau on new business starts, why new business startups dropped off so much in 2009, and the wide array of policy responses that have been deployed to boost entreprenuership going forward.

Growing Appetite for American-Made Goods Overseas

We hear a lot about our country's insatiable appetite for foreign-made goods. However, it is easy to forget that our trading partners also have an increasing appetite for American-made durable goods (where "durable goods" includes such things as computers, furniture, aircraft, machinery, ....). In fact, over the past decade, a growing share of our manufactured goods has been heading overseas.

Forecasters Expect Housing Activity to Rise in 2011-2012

On Wednesday, March 16th, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau will release February data on housing starts and building permits. After experiencing a huge downturn, private forecasters expect housing activity to improve appreciably during 2011 and 2012. The Blue Chip consensus expects housing starts to increase about 13 percent during 2011 and an additional 30 percent during 2012.

Retail Sales: What A Gas

The bottom line from today's report on retail sales is that consumer spending continues to increase, even after a surge in spending late last year. February retail sales increased 1.0 percent and the increases in retail sales in the previous two months were revised upward. Taken together, the January-February average of retail sales rose 7.7 percent at an annual rate over the fourth quarter. Why are consumers spending more?

Exports Rise in First 2011 Report on Foreign Trade Balance

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services widened from $40.3 billion in December to $46.3 billion in January, a change that reflected a healthy increase in exports coupled with a really, really big increase in imports.  Let's talk about exports first. Exports rose 2.7 percent in January (an increase of $4.4 billion), and reached an all-time record (in nominal terms).

Oil Prices And The Trade Deficit

There are several reasons why today's blog should be of great interest. Last year, the petroleum-related trade deficit totaled $265 billion and accounted for 42 percent of our total deficit in goods. To put this in more personal terms, $265 billion averages to about $850 for every woman, man and child in the U.S. In 2008, when oil prices hit their all-time high, the petroleum-related deficit totaled $386 billion (over $1,260 for each person). That's a lot of money flowing out of the country for a commodity with a volatile price over which we have little control.

Employment Growth Rebounds Strongly in February

A very positive report overall. Here are four main points about today's release:

Youth Labor Force Participation And School Enrollment

Friday's jobs report will tell us how many new jobs were added to payrolls in February as well as the unemployment rate. Analysts will also closely watch for changes in the labor force participation rate, which measures the share of the population that is working or looking for work.

Today's blog post focuses on youths (age 16-24) in the labor force. Notably, we find that, facing a tough job market, many youth have increasingly invested in developing their skills and education, which will make them more productive and help them earn more when they do re-enter the labor market.

New Tax Cuts Boost Personal Income

Today's release covers personal income and consumer spending for the month of January.  The big news is on the income side where personal income increased 1.0 percent in January -- the largest increase since May 2009 and substantially higher than private expectations of 0.4 percent.  Why did income go up so much?  The bottom line is that income was substantially boosted by the tax cuts the President signed in December.  More specifically, the jump in income in January from December wa

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