Harper: GDP, Jobless Claims Show Continued Economic Recovery

Mar 27, 2014

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit Uiniversity of West Florida

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper looks at the latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures. According to revised data released Thursday (March 27) by the Commerce Department, GDP grew at an annual pace of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The growth rate is slightly better than the 2.4% estimate published in February, but was down from 3.2% originally reported in January. Harper says “Overall, it’s a pretty good report,” noting increases in 1) consumer spending, 2) business investment spending, and 3) exports.

The latest statistics on the number of people filing unemployment claims were lower than forecast, with some 311,000 individuals applying for jobless benefits for the week. “It’s a better than predicted report. And actually, if you look at the four-week moving average, we’re certainly well into what one would think of as healthy territory,” says Harper.

On the housing front, colder-than-normal weather in the Northeast has continues to slow new home sales across the country.  However, Harper says the housing market has begun to stabilize in Florida, including the Panhandle region. “For the past year and a half, prices have bottomed out in Florida and they are beginning to rise again as an indicator of the health of the housing market.”

Finally, Harper weighs in on the return of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron. The Blues Angels arrived back at NAS Pensacola this week from their winter training site El Centro, CA. On Wednesday, the squadron flew their first public practice since the 2013 air show season was cut short last spring due to the automatic budget cuts of sequestration.  

Now, the squadron is fully funded for 2014, with two big performances to be held in the Pensacola area. Looking at the big picture, Harper says military spending is extremely important to the regional economy; that includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa, which is leads the state in military employment. “A sign like the Blue Angels air show being restored is certainly good news for Northwest Florida,” he says.

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate.  rharper@uwf.edu