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Reports: (Almost) Nothing But Good Economic News

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Here’s something we haven’t seen in a while: Good news about the economy. Reports out this week find that private companies are hiring again, planned layoffs are down, CEOs are becoming more willing to hire people, and bankers are feeling optimistic about the future of American consumers.

First the tangible stuff, jobs. Private companies added 201,000 of them in the last month, according to a report by ADP Employment Services. More than half the new jobs were created by small businesses, and 81% of them were in service industries.

“Today’s ADP National Employment Report confirms that U.S. private-sector employment growth has averaged about 175,000 jobs over the last six months,” Gary C. Butler, ADP’s president, said in a press release.

The trend is likely to continue, since employers reported that they plan fewer layoffs in the future. Companies announced they would cut 41,528 jobs in March, 18% less than the 50,702 layoffs they announced in February, according to a study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a consulting company.

In total, employers announced just over 130,000 job cuts in the first quarter, 28% less than the same time last year.

“The good news is that other areas of the economy appear to have stabilized in terms of downsizing activity,” Rick Robb, an executive vice president with the company, said in a press release.

Positive jobs numbers are making corporate leaders more optimistic. CEOs in particular are feeling better than they have in nine years. A survey of 142 CEOs by the Business Roundtable found that 52% of them plan to add staff in the United States in the next six months. That’s the highest level of expected hiring since 2002.

“Our CEOs see momentum in the economy over the next six months, with increased demand fueling greater investment and job creation,” Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman of the Roundtable and CEO of Verizon Communications, said in a press release.

The optimism appears infectious. Among executives who study credit risks for banks, more believe that delinquency rates on credit cards, car loans and small business loans will decline in coming six months. The survey was performed by FICO, the credit scoring company.

Not all the results in the FICO study were rosy, however. Over the next six months, 42% of bankers expect the number of mortgage delinquencies to rise, compared to just 18% who think that delinquencies will fall.

Nevertheless, FICO interpreted the results as good news for consumers and the economy.

“These results are the latest sign that America’s economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum,” Dr. Andrew Jennings, a FICO analyst, said in a press release.

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