- Post 22 July 2012
- By Copy Editor
WASHINGTON (AP) - A raft of economic news Thursday sketched a picture of a weakening U.S. economy held back by sluggish home buying and factory production.
Americans bought fewer homes in June than in May. Manufacturing in the Federal Reserve's Philadelphia region contracted for a third straight month this month. And a gauge of future U.S. economic activity fell in June.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 34,000 last week. Normally, that would signal an increase in layoffs. But the figure was skewed higher by seasonal factors that made it hard to tell whether the job market might be worsening.
The government tries to adjust its unemployment benefits data to reflect temporary summertime layoffs in the auto industry. But this year, many automakers skipped those shutdowns to keep up with demand. That led to fewer layoffs, which the Labor Department didn't anticipate.
Once those statistical distortions fade, Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc., wrote in a note to clients, "we suspect that the data will point to a soggy labor market."
The economy is struggling to generate enough growth to boost hiring and consumer spending from subpar levels. ...continues...