April unemployment numbers brought good news. About 288,000 new jobs were created, representing the highest one-month total in two years. Unemployment is now at 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008. Employers added an average of 238,000 jobs each month over the last three months, which is a substantial improvement over the average of 167,000 per month in the previous three.
Consumer spending is up, but only modestly. Due to the chilly weather, in the first quarter we spent more money on utilities and health care. Spending on consumer goods was relatively flat, but in March Americans bought more cars and boosted retail numbers at shopping malls.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “American Economy Bounces Back From Brutal Winter” at UT San Diego website, May 2, 2014.]
Home sales are also up. March marked the first gain in pending sales over the last nine months. Like a stack of dominoes, as more jobs become available, more people will move to accept them, and that brings about more inventory in the real estate market. Low inventory is viewed as the main snag for lagging growth in this market. However, houses valued at one million dollars or more represent the greatest number of sales, and the vacation home market is robust as retirees seek to replace their primary homes. Housing prices continue to increase, but as more inventory enters the market that is expected to level off price growth.
[CLICK HERE to read the article and view the video, “Pending Home Sales Increase in March,” at National Association of Realtors, Apr. 28, 2014.]
It may take a couple of years, but food manufacturers will soon be required to change the way they label nutrition information on packages. The format for providing information on these labels hasn’t changed in 20 years, so many in the healthcare and food industry are applauding the initiative. New labels will display the calorie count in a larger and more prominent manner to be easily read by consumers, and will also reflect a change in the base serving size to mirror today’s consumer’s eating portions and habits. Another positive change will be an accurate representation of sugar that is added to food. As of now, that line item includes both naturally occurring and added sugars.
Much of the influence for requiring new standards for labeling nutrition facts on food containers is attributed to First Lady Michelle Obama. Her high-profile “Let’s Move” campaign to educate children and parents on the importance of exercise and nutrition also appears to have made an impact on recent lower childhood obesity rates.
[CLICK HERE to watch, “Michelle Obama Puts Nutrition Center Stage,” at ABC News, Feb. 27, 2014.]
[CLICK HERE to watch, “Obesity Rates in Children Decline 43 Percent in Ten Years,” at ABC News, Feb. 25, 2014.]
This increased focus on fitness and healthy eating provides interesting avenues for economic growth. Companies associated with or benefiting from this trend appear to be outpacing other industries. Costco is one company that is capitalizing on the newfound interest in natural and organic food. In the first year the warehouse chain began offering fresh organic ground beef, it generated $25 billion in sales – 80 percent of those sales were to members previously not in the habit of purchasing beef there.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to invest in healthy living” at Fidelity, May 1, 2014.]
It’s always great to get some positive news, and we’re excited about the continued economic prospects for 2014. If we can help assess your financial picture and position you to take advantage of your future financial strategy, please contact us to schedule an appointment.
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