The latest economic reports are in, and they can be summarized in one little word: Meh. The American economy is no longer driving off a cliff. Neither is it “recovering,” exactly. It’s just sort of sitting there limp, like a half-boiled noodle, too soft to stuff back in the box but too hard to enjoy.
The latest news on our current jobless, recovery-less recovery comes from the commerce department, which found that the nation’s gross domestic output of goods and services grew by an anemic 1.3% in the last three months. Since 2007, our nation’s economy has grown by a mere .3%.
Then there’s the more in-depth insight into the economy offered by the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, the agency’s quarterly look at borrowing and spending trends. People bought more stuff during the last three months than they did during the first quarter of 2011, but not much, the Fed found. Auto sales were mixed, with lower sales in the Chicago district and higher sales around Kansas City.
What’s funny about the report is its strange mix of vagueness and specificity. It notes slightly increased consumer spending levels across most of the 12 Fed districts, but fails to give any numbers for total sales or the percentage of increase. Meanwhile it says that “one large mall in western New York credited Canadian shoppers as the source” of increased tourism, while some random, unnamed store in Philadelphia said increased shopping was due to lower gas prices.
Well that about covers it, no?
Like consumer spending, demand for loans was mixed across the country, but not significantly stronger or weaker in any place in particular. Consumer loans were increasingly popular in Chicago, lower in St. Louis and Kansas City.
“Credit conditions have changed little since the previous Beige Book,” the Fed found, and “Residential real estate sales in almost all Districts were little changed from the last Beige Book.” See? Meh.
[Related article: S&P Data: Home Prices Increase Slightly in Major Cities]
Hardly any more fun is to be found within the Labor Department’s latest unemployment numbers. The number of initial unemployment claims in the third week of July was 398,000, down 24,000 from the week previous. That moved the total unemployment rate down a tick, from 3% to 2.9%. Of course, that fails to take into account the millions of people who have stopped looking for jobs entirely.
One interesting, widely overlooked fact: The number of people defaulting on their car loans may be creeping back up. That’s especially true of loans from smaller banks, according to Bill Moreland, founder and CEO of BankRegData.com. Just over 7 million, or 1.3% of car loans from small banks are 30-90 days past due, compared to just .3% of car loans given by the largest four banks with more than $1 trillion in assets.
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Image: Rick Harris, via Flickr.com