This week’s economic news caused less trouble than a selfie with President Obama, which is a nice reprieve after the last several weeks of less-than-stellar economic performance numbers.
The first bit of good news we received was from the world of small business. Small Business Optimism increased to 93.4 in March, up 2 from February. If small business is the engine of the economy, small business optimism is a joyride with Roxette.
Later in the week, it was reported that initial jobless claims reached a seven year low after falling 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000. It may, after all, be true that robots aren’t stealing our jobs. If the job market continues to report similar numbers, this will do more for the Democrats than Bush-blaming and receiving political support from the North Kardashian-West household.
This positive job market report comes fresh off a heel not thrown at Hillary Clinton and other positive indicators that suggest an improving job market, such as 76.7 percent of prime-age workers included in the March workforce, companies issuing fewer pink slips, an increase in the average work-week from 34.3 hours in February to 34.5 hours in March and the entrepreneurial spirit dying a slow death.
That last one is sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice. We’re not so sure a decrease in the number of new start-ups to 476,000 in 2013 from 514,000 in February (a 7 percent drop) indicates an improving job market so much as it indicates that otherwise adventurous people may be afraid to take risks. We’ll chalk that assessment up to Parija Kavilanz seeing what she wants to see, unlike the evidence proving a George Michael Bluth/Maeby Funke love child, as millions of Americans who think jobs are harder to find than Sriracha are out of work and surely some don’t want to be.
For home buyers and home owners looking to refi, there’s less insufferable news this week than hearing about a Paltrow-Martin separation ceremony. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the home lending index of all home lending indexes, dropped last week to 4.34 percent from 4.41 percent. Though that’s about a 1 percent increase year-over-year, it may offer an entry point for home buyers and owners wishing to refi who’ve been discouraged by recent increases in home prices. At the same time rates dropped, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that refi applications decreased and purchase applications increased.
Whether consumer confidence, most recently reported at 80, accurately or falsely reflects current economic conditions, consumers aren’t mirroring it with their wallet, as U.S. consumer credit increased by $16.49 billion to $3.13 trillion in February. At the same time, non-revolving consumer credit such as auto and college tuition loans increased by $18.91 billion. As we said earlier in the week, every signature to take on more debt only increases the cost of everything and, as is evidenced by U.S. producer prices increasing 5 percent in March, is just as much an error as Rolling Stone suggesting John Hancock signed The U.S. Constitution. Credit card rates are on the rise and banks are in the money business to make billions, not lose billions like Mark Zuckergerg.
Real-wages being down 7 percent since 2006 notwithstanding, the fact that $20 only buys a watered-down beer and two hot dogs in many baseball parks, alone, indicates that it’s time to raise the minimum wage. A financially struggling family who can’t afford to attend a baseball game in the U.S. is un-American. Layered on top of that like lettuce and cheese, many Americans will soon be priced out of a hamburger, as the cost of beef increased 7.5 percent year-over-year in February and 33 percent since 2008. Eat mor chiken! At least, some people, such as Janet Yellen and Jack Lew are talking the talk about Americans not being made whole since the recession. Someday they’ll turn words into adequate action.
Some things you need to know to protect your money include:
- Don’t do more than one IRA rollover per year, as recently ruled by the ever-so-friendly IRS,
- smartly and strategically withdrawal your retirement savings, as withdrawals with total abandon will hurt you,
- regularly check your retirement account designated beneficiaries, so you don’t give all your money to that horrible ex of yours,
- quadruple all of your savings with these strategies,
- get some 21st century help with this financial aids/apps, and,
- pay your taxes before midnight next Tuesday or the tax man will get you if the Four Blood Moons don’t.
Who knows? If you manage your finances right, you may be able to retire early like 32 year old Brandon Sutherland.
That’s what you need to know. Come back every Friday for another attempt at making economics and personal finance entertaining with the Debt Free Guys’ #MoneyConscious Mash Up.