Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Business

April 22, 2014

Spring lifts U.S. economy

Business activity accelerating after severe winter

(Continued)

After the winter slowdown, recovering motor vehicle sales have boosted revenue for companies such as Batesville Tool & Die in Batesville, Ind.

"We feel like the auto industry is all the way back from before the recession," said Jody Fledderman, the company's president and CEO. "The numbers we see are fully recovered from then. We expect to see 4 to 8 percent increases in the industry overall for the next three or four years."

Weekly government reports on unemployment benefits show that most employers are prepping for stronger growth in the months ahead.

Claims for jobless benefits are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average for unemployment claims have plunged to a 6 ½-year low, according to the Labor Department.

The most recent weekly average was 312,000 applications, down from 357,000 a year ago and the smallest average since October 2007, which was two months before the Great Recession started.

The number of claims is consistent with job gains of "200,000-plus" this month, said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

That would be slightly better than the 192,000 jobs employers added in March and the 197,000 hired in February.

Among those benefiting from a stronger job market is Courtney Ginder, 23. She found work almost immediately after graduating last year from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. She writes press releases, manages a corporate website and does other tasks for an Indiana company that helps manufacturers monitor their equipment remotely. "I love my job," she says. All of her Purdue friends, she says, also landed jobs in their field after graduation, too.

Shopping has also recovered along with temperatures. March buying at general merchandise stores, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Macy's, climbed at the fastest clip in seven years, the Commerce Department said last week.

Total U.S. retail sales rose last month by 1.1 percent, led by purchases of autos and furniture.

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