Economy Watch: More Mixed Messages on U.S. Economy

Recent reports on job creation and consumer confidence are sending mixed signals about the health of the U.S. economy.
Credit: The University of Michigan's Survey of Consumers, Sentiment Index
Credit: The University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers, Sentiment Index

For the U.S. economy in 2016, and the commercial and residential real estate market, indicators have been mixed. Some hint at the possibility of a slowdown (and a few glum economists see a recession ahead), while others point to a healthier underlying economy. The parade of mixed numbers continued on Friday.

From February to March, 21 states had unemployment rate decreases, 15 states suffered increases, and 14 states and the District of Columbia had no change, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, resulting in a fairly mixed bag. South Dakota and New Hampshire had the lowest jobless rates in March, 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, while the rates in both Arkansas (4 percent) and Oregon (4.5 percent) set new lows since 1976, when the bureau began tracking state rates. Alaska had the highest rate at 6.6 percent.

Among the largest states, with the largest real estate markets, Illinois had relatively high unemployment at 6.5 percent. California was close to the national average of 5.5 percent, coming in at 5.4 percent, while New York state enjoyed a 4.8 percent unemployment rate and Florida’s rate was 4.9 percent. Texas had the lowest large-state unemployment in March, coming in at 4.3 percent.

Separately, the University of Michigan reported that U.S. consumers are a bit more nervous than before, with its Sentiment Index falling from 91.0 at the end of March to 89.7 in mid-April, which is 8.4 points below the most recent peak in January 2015. Consumers were concerned about a slowdown in expected wage gains, weakening inflation-adjusted income expectations, and growing concerns that slowing economic growth would reduce the pace of job creation.