US Home Sales Up in August, Durable Orders Down

29 September 2003

Mixed fortunes for the US economy in August, according to two government departments.

Sales of new and existing homes soared at a combined annual rate of 7.62 million during the month, a record, reported the Commerce Department. But orders for durable goods (those intended to last upward of three years) fell unexpectedly by 0.9%.

Meanwhile, the employment situation remained of concern to the Labor Department (and the jobless). Although first-time unemployment claims fell from 400,000 to 381,000 during the week to September 20, the more reliable four-week moving average remained above the 400,000 mark – a total seen by many economists to indicate weakness in the nation’s financial state.

Opined Cathy E Minehan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston: “Without follow-through from significant job growth and the income generation it begets, the current upsurge in consumer spending could be jeopardized.”

Agreed her colleague Donald L Kohn: “It will be a while before we can be sure that a self-sustaining expansion is under way of sufficient strength and persistence to put the economy back on a path toward full employment.”

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff