The Latest Economic News from the USA

Get the latest economic news from the USA, including updates on GDP, interest rates, inflation, and more.

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The Unemployment Rate Is Low, but There’s a Catch

The unemployment rate in the United States is at a 50-year low, but there is a catch. The job market is not as good as it seems. The number of Americans working part-time because they can’t find full-time work is near a record high. underemployment, which includes part-timers, discouraged workers and those marginally attached to the labor force, is at 8.1%, just below the 8.2% rate in August 2009, when the Great Recession ended.

The U.S. Trade Deficit Narrowed in March

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March as exports rose to a record high, boosted by sales of aircraft and other capital goods, while imports fell for a second straight month.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade gap shrank 1.6% to $43.7 billion in March from $44.5 billion in February, which was revised higher from an initial report of $43 billion.

Exports increased 0.9% to a record $208.5 billion in March from $206.6 billion in February on gains in sales of commercial aircraft, engines and farm equipment. Exports of capital goods such as computer chips and drilling equipment also rose sharply, while exports of petroleum products fell for a fourth straight month.

Imports declined 0.7% to $252.2 billion in March from $251 billion the previous month on declines in crude oil and consumer goods such as cellphones and clothing. Imports of automobiles also fell for a second straight month as demand for foreign-made cars continued to weaken amid cheaper gasoline prices and lower consumer confidence this year.

Manufacturing Activity in the U.S. Rose in April

The ISM manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 60.7 in April from 59.3 in March. Economists had expected the index to slip to 59.0 from the preliminary reading of 59.1. Readings above 50 indicate expansion in manufacturing activity, while readings below 50 indicate contraction.

The rise in the index was driven by stronger growth in new orders and production, as well as employment. Inventories also increased at a faster pace, while supplier deliveries slowed slightly.

“Overall, respondents remain very optimistic about continued growth in activity through the end of 2018,” said Timothy R. Fiore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

Consumer Confidence in the U.S. Fell in April

The Conference Board reported that its consumer confidence index fell to 120.3 in April from 124.9 in March. Economists had expected the index to decline to 121.0. The decline in the index came as consumers’ assessment of current conditions fell to the lowest level since November 2016, while their expectations for the future also retreated.

U.S. Home Sales Fell in March

Home sales in the United States fell in March as the number of properties listed for sale declined to a record low, a sign that the housing market recovery was losing momentum.

The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday that sales of previously owned homes dropped 2.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million units last month after touching a nearly 10-year high in February.

March’s decline snaps a streak of three straight monthly increases. Sales had surged 5.1 percent in February, defying analysts’ expectations for a modest decline.

The median price for a home was $236,400 last month, up 5 percent from 12 months earlier. At the current sales pace, it would take 4.6 months to clear the inventory of homes on the market, which was unchanged from February at 1.93 million units, the fewest since December 1999.

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