You probably won’t want to pull out the confetti just yet or gear up for a big hiring push. Still, there are some subtle signs that the economy may be turning around, especially in some parts of the country.
Mind you, most of the economic indicators — for instance, housing starts and industrial production — are still down from peak levels. The cause for optimism rests in the fact that the rates of decline are slowing or in some instances have started to turn around, according to statistics from the Commerce Department. For example:
- The rate of decline of industrial production has steadied in the last few months, meaning companies have started to push once-mounting inventories out the door to customers.
- Prices are rising for some benchmark commodities such as copper, which is used by the housing industry.
- The cost of shipping by large freighters had been dropping as demand sunk. This winter, however, those costs have tripled, indicating a surge in need.
- Consumer spending and confidence picked up a bit in mid-March, after falling off a cliff for most of the previous 12 months.
- Construction of new housing rose 22.2% from January, the Commerce Department reported. That sector is still down 47.3% from a year ago, but it’s the first time in a while that the trend went up.
More about housing, location
Housing starts jumped 22% between January and February. Most of that figure got its momentum from starts of large multifamily units, which jumped 79.7%. Starts in single-family homes climbed just 1.1% between January and February.
And what part of the country was the leader in the February mini-surge? The Northeast, followed by the Midwest and South.
Housing starts in the Northeast jumped 88.6% overall and 54.2% for single-family homes.
The Midwest rebounded 58.5%, and the South 30.2%. The West saw a decline — 24.6%.