ECONOMY WEEKLY: WEEK OF MARCH 1, 2010


 
“Take the question of helping the unemployed in the middle of a deep slump. What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says: that when the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That’s because the economy’s problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay.”
– Paul Krugman, New York Times, 3/5/10
 
Today, the Department of Labor released the unemployment report for February showing that the policies adopted by President Obama and the Democratic Congress continue to have the intended effect of slowing job losses and growing the economy. However, there is still more work to be done on the road to recovery, so Congress will continue efforts to spur economic growth and get Americans back to work.
 
Economy Highlights:
• A report from the International Council of Shopping Centers notes that consumer spending increased 3.7% in February – a positive indication given that consumer spending represents about 70% of the economy. “Despite intense snowstorms that shuttered malls and left consumers in parts of the East and Midwest homebound for days, sales at stores open at least a year rose 3.7 percent in February to their highest levels since November 2007.... February's results would have been even higher without the blizzard, which the group said dragged down sales by one percentage point.” According to Thomson Reuters, “comparing this February to last, the industry reported a 4 percent increase in sales at stores open at least a year.” [Washington Post, 3/5/2010; New York Times, 3/5/2010]
• The Commerce Department reported that “manufacturing strength continued in January as factory orders rose a seasonally adjusted 1.7% to $378.4 billion,” another indication that the manufacturing sector of our economy continues to recover. [Wall Street Journal, 3/5/2010]
 
Recovery Highlights:
 
• Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that every state met the March 2nd deadline to obligate 100% of their highway Recovery Act funds, meaning “contracts can be bid, workers can be hired, equipment and supplies can be purchased and work can begin on construction projects that create jobs and drive economic growth.” Recovery Act resources have been obligated to more than 12,000 highway projects nationwide - of which almost 7,800 are already underway. [Department of Transportation, 3/1/2010]
• In its fifth in a series of reports since passage of the Recovery Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Recovery Act is working to create jobs and grow the economy.  One example, according to the report, details education jobs created and saved by the Recovery Act: “An estimated 63 percent of [Local Education Agencies (LEA)] plan to use more than 50 percent of their Recovery Act SFSF funds to retain jobs, while an estimated 25 percent and 19 percent of LEAs said they planned to use over half of their Recovery Act funds on job retention.... [T]he nationwide impact of Recovery Act education funds on job retention may be significant because K-12 public school systems employ about 6.2 million staff, based on Education’s estimates, and make up about 4 percent of the nation’s workforce.”  [GAO ReportSummaryHighlights, 3/3/2010]
 
 
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