The Economy Is Improving, Or Is It?

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) fell 0.7% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate during the second quarter, an improvement from two earlier estimates indicating a 1.0% decline.

Meanwhile, various other economic data suggest that real GDP will increase in the third and fourth quarters. Industrial production, for example, advanced during July and August, pushing up capacity utilization.

Unadjusted for inflation, retail and food services sales fell 1.5% in September after jumping 2.2% in August from the month before, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was largely driven by the “cash for clunkers” program, which pushed the measure up in August, but held it down in September.

Excluding motor vehicle and parts sales, this measure was up 1.0% in August and 0.5% in September and its has increased in four of the last five months — suggesting that consumers may be feeling a little better about making purchases.

To keep this in perspective, however, total retail and food services sales were down 5.4% from a year earlier, but down 4.9% when motor vehicle and parts sale are excluded.

More than 80% of the economists responding to the National Association for Business Economics forecast survey believe that the recession is now over, although they generally expect the recovery to be slower than usual.

 

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