Mixed economic signals keep forecasters guessing

There was brighter economic news this week. Economists now believe the economy will grow faster in the coming year than they had anticipated just three months ago, according to an Associated Press survey.

Great. Now what about jobs?

Not so wonderful. Even though the economists surveyed expect businesses to hire more workers this year than last, they don’t believe the nation’s unemployment rate will drop much below 9 percent. And a return to more traditional unemployment rates of near 5 percent could still be five years off.

Whether you’re a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full person, there seems to be abundant economic news to support your view.

Business investment continued to be solid in December, following gains in November, according to Commerce Department figures, and sales of previously owned homes rose slightly.

But more Americans than anticipated filed for unemployment benefits last week, and orders for durable goods dropped slightly.

And the Federal Reserve Bank said this week the economy still isn’t growing fast enough to spur significant gains in employment. It vowed to continue with controversial plans to sell $600 billion in assets by June.

Still, the bulk of the economic news seems to be moving in the right direction. The stock market has been pushing upward, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed near 12,000 on Thursday.

The U.S. economy grew faster in the fourth quarter of last year than the previous three quarters, and the fourth quarter recorded the largest gain in consumer spending in four years.

We join countless people in hoping the recovery not only continues, but brings new jobs faster than the experts are predicting.


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