News / USA

Upbeat US Economic News Boosts Hopes for Sustained Recovery

Michael Bowman

In U.S. economic news, retail spending surged last month amid continued low inflation - a sign that Americans believe better economic times lie ahead. Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Central Bank says a modest economic recovery will continue, but that the United States will be hard pressed to replace millions of jobs lost during a severe economic recession that ended late last year.

For months, economists have wondered whether a fledgling economic upturn would last, or if the United States would sink back into recession amid constrained credit conditions and reluctance by businesses to hire new workers and consumers to return to the free-spending ways of the past.

But the latest report from the Commerce Department shows Americans opening their wallets, with retail sales spiking 1.6 percent in March after rising 0.5 percent in February. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and jumps in sales typically lead businesses to boost production, which could have a positive impact on America's stubbornly-high unemployment rate.

Separately, the Labor Department reports consumer prices rose a miniscule 0.1 percent in March, and were unchanged from February if volatile food and energy prices are excluded.

Addressing House and Senate lawmakers on Capitol Hill, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested the economic recovery - however modest - looks real and sustainable.

"A recovery in economic activity appears to have begun in the second half of last year," said Ben Bernanke. "On balance, the incoming data suggests that growth in final demand will be sufficient to promote a moderate economic recovery in coming quarters. Consumer spending continued to increase in the first two months of this year. Going forward, consumer spending should be aided by a gradual pick-up in jobs and earnings, the recovery in household wealth from recent lows, and some improvement in credit availability."

But the central bank chief was quick to add that economic hurdles remain.

"To be sure, significant restraints on the pace of recovery remain, including weakness in both residential and non-residential [home and building] construction and the poor fiscal condition of many state and local governments," he said.

Bernanke said America's ballooning national debt will constrain America's economic growth prospects over the long term, and that the U.S. job market will continue to be tight for months, perhaps years to come.

"Recently, we have seen some encouraging signs that layoffs are slowing and that employment has turned up," said Bernanke. "Manufacturing employment increased for a third month in March. New claims for unemployment continue on a generally-downward trend. However, if the pace of recovery is moderate, as I expect, a significant amount of time will be required to restore the 8.5 million jobs that were lost during the past two years."

U.S. markets seem to be giving a vote of confidence to the nation's economic prospects, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently climbing above 11,000 for the first time since 2008. World markets were mostly higher Wednesday amid healthy earnings reports from computer chip-maker Intel as well as banking giant JP Morgan Chase.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs