Jun 3, 2010 10:18 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Economy sending mixed signals

How's the economy doing? It depends on which report you're reviewing--and a whole slew of new information was released Thursday morning.

Retail sales: Retailers are reporting tepid business in May after cool weather and fresh concerns about the economy had shoppers cutting spending on clothing and other nonessentials. The reports follow a lackluster April.  Department store chain Stage Stores Inc. and teen merchant Wet Seal Inc. both are reporting declines in revenue at stores open at least a year. Costco is reporting a gain slightly below Wall Street expectations. Another report from Mastercard Advisors' SpendingPulse showed that clothing sales at mall-based chains fell last month.

Unemployment: New claims for unemployment insurance fell for the second straight week. The declines come after a sharp increase three weeks ago, and claims remain at elevated levels. The Labor Department says initial claims for jobless benefits are 453,000. The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 31,000 to 4.67 million.

Productivity: Productivity grew at a slower rate in the first three months of the year than previously thought, a possible sign that businesses are reaching the limits of their ability to boost output with fewer workers. The Labor Department says productivity advanced at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the January-March period. That is the slowest pace in a year and much lower than the government initially reported a month ago.

Factory orders: A big surge in demand for commercial aircraft offset weakness in a number of other areas. The Commerce Department said that orders for manufactured goods increased 1.2 percent in April, a slowdown from a 1.7 percent rise in March. Excluding transportation, orders actually fell 0.5 percent, the poorest showing in 13 months. Economists worry that the debt crisis in Europe could slow sales in one of America's biggest overseas markets.


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