Economy Watch: GDP Barely Rises; FOMC Points to Growth; ADP Reports 220K Jobs in April

The Federal Open Market Committee reports an uptick in economic activity since its last meeting in March, though GDP barely grew in the first quarter of 2014. Good news comes from ADP, which reports 220,000 jobs added in April.

Real gross domestic product in the United States increased at an annualized rate of 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Wednesday. That was less than expected, but it’s only the first estimate, and estimates tend to be revised upward.

The small increase reflected a positive contribution from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), which is the government’s terminology for consumers out consuming. In fact, PCE turned in a fairly healthy annualized increase of 3 percent in the first quarter.

But the rise in PCE was mostly offset by negative contributions from exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, residential fixed investment and state and local government spending—almost everything else the BEA tracks, in other words. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

FOMC points to growth, cuts stimulus

The Federal Open Market Committee wrapped up its latest meeting on Wednesday, reporting that it has noticed an uptick in U.S. economic activity since its March meeting. The central bank blamed the early 2014 slowdown in part on the hard weather conditions during the winter.

“Labor market indicators were mixed, but on balance showed further improvement,” the FOMC said. “The unemployment rate, however, remains elevated. Household spending appears to be rising more quickly. Business fixed investment edged down, while the recovery in the housing sector remained slow.” As for the sequester, the central bank said that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing.”

Also, the tapering will continue. Beginning in May, the Fed will add to its holdings of MBS at a pace of $20 billion per month rather than $25 billion, and will buy longer-term Treasuries at a rate of $25 billion per month instead than $30 billion per month. That is, there will be another $10 billion in tapering; at this rate, QE3 will be history by the end of the summer.

ADP reports 220k jobs added in April

Automated Data Processing reported on Wednesday that the U.S. private sector created 220,000 jobs in April. The report, which is derived from ADP’s payroll data, sometimes jibes with the official government employment numbers (which will be released on Friday), but just as often not.

“The job market is gaining strength,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, notes. “After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes. The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence.”

Wall Street enjoyed a moderate up day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 45.47 points, or 0.27 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.27 percent.