Gains and loss reports for the first half of 2013 are in, and show mixed signals in terms of our overall economic situation. The economy grew at a sluggish 1.7 percent annual rate for the second quarter (April through June), according to the announcement by the Commerce Department on Wednesday. Though this was a better growth than the mere 1.1 percent reported following quarter one, it was still too slow to take a bite out of the unemployment rate.
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News for manufacturing was more positive, boosted partially by the boom in automotive sales and even further by a surge in sales. The Institute for Supply Management announced this past Thursday that the index of factory activity was up to 55.4 in July, a considerable gain since the 50.9 reported in June. Any number over 50 is indicative of growth in the manufacturing sector. Unemployment numbers in manufacturing were the best they’ve been in a year, while production rates climbed 11.6 points to 65, which is the highest this number has been since May of 2004.
The construction sector, however, didn’t have such a positive first half of 2013. Spending on construction fell .6 percent, though it had gained 1.3 percent since May, according to the Commerce Department’s announcement on Thursday. This is the biggest decline since the 2.3 percent drop back in January. A surge in remodeling projects helped offset a .8 percent drop in single family dwelling construction and a 3.3 percent drop in multi family dwelling construction. Overall, housing construction was flat for the month. Still, even with the drop in June, total construction spending is 18.1 percent higher than it stood one year ago.
The brightest news from the first quarter of 2013 might be in automotive sales. July sales figures will be released this coming Thursday. So far, automotive sales have broken 7.8 million for the first half of 2013, the best first half of a year for automotive manufacturers since 2007. [/show_to]