The economic recovery remains weak, and consumers can tell. A series of economic reports published in the last week shows that Americans are cautiously optimistic about their major credit purchases, but remain worried for their jobs and convinced the nation is heading down the wrong track.
Pending home sales increased 2% in December, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors. The following month, builders cut back on their building projects by .7%, bringing total construction spending down to $791.8 billion in January. That was close to the decade low of $791.5 billion reached last August, according to the Commerce Department.
Meanwhile, 26,000 more people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 5 than they did the previous week, bringing the total to 397,000, the Labor Department reported.
All of this is taking a toll on Americans’ views about the economy. Sixty-three percent of Americans say the nation is headed in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll by Bloomberg News. Nearly half—49%—of respondents say they are worse off now than they were two years ago, and nearly half the people polled described the economic recovery as “fragile.”
Maybe that’s why some Americans are nervous about using credit unless they absolutely must. As we reported last month, the number of people buying houses with cash instead of using mortgages is growing, especially in cities like Las Vegas that were hardest hit by the credit crunch.