Harper: More Signs Of A Strengthening Economy

Jun 6, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses more signs of a strengthening economy on a national level.

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit University of West Florida

“Vehicle sales are up. That’s a good indication of people getting back to work and needing a car or truck to get there or to carry their tools,” says Harper. Also, he notes the Institute for Supply Management, which is the association of purchasing managers from around the United States. They do a survey every month, which collects data from about 3,000 responding businesses asking whether they will be buying more or less. Harper says, “Based on that, the services sector is showing a pretty strong uptick.”

Additionally, it’s a positive sign that the U.S. trade deficit is rising, indicating the people are spending more on imported goods, among other things.

In advance of the Labor Department job market report to be released today, ADP’s report on Wednesday shows a projection of about 180,000 net new jobs in the U.S. economy. According to Harper, it’s okay, “It’s not quite as good as it’s been in the last several months, but it’s still pretty good.”

Initial jobless claims data shows a four-week average that’s trending downward; overall showing a job market that’s slowly improving.

As for employment for recent graduates, Harper says college and university graduates enjoy substantially lower unemployment rates than high school graduates. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published data that shows when the job market was so weak in 2009 about 70% of graduating seniors went to college. Conversely, now that the economy is improving, the 2013 report shows that only 66 percent of high school graduates went on to college or university. And, that’s largely because they entered the job market.

Harper says one disturbing trend is that it appears high school graduates from lower income families are participating less in the labor market.

Finally, in a follow up to the recent Memorial Day Holiday weekend, Harper says local hoteliers are confirming a drop in business as indicated with a drop of about 5 percent in toll traffic across the Bob Sykes Bridge to Pensacola Beach compared to 2013. Harper says hoteliers’ observations including that people are still worried about the effects of the April flooding and that the LGBT community didn’t show up the same numbers as they have in previous years.

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement; rharper@uwf.edu.