Friday, February 18, 2011

National News: The economy, gender pay gap, and consumer spending

Last week I shared an article about new claims for unemployment insurance. I mentioned that the change from week to week is a somewhat volatile measure. Sure enough, this week's data illustrated my point! Last week the number of new claims showed a decrease from the week prior; this week, claims were up again. This is a great example of what I pointed out last week: If you want to know how the economy is doing, the week-to-week numbers are a tricky measure. It's better to look at the last several weeks' or months' data.

But how is the U.S. economy doing, anyway? The Conference Board released this week their index of economic indicators. January showed a small increase, following larger increases in November and December, thus the index says things are looking good. Well, things are looking up, at least. If you're wondering how specific parts of the economy are moving (housing permits? manufacturing orders? the money supply?) check out the full article from Bloomberg news.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released some data this week that caught the eye of at least a couple of major news organizations, and not just because it's represented by a pretty graph. (Although, as a side note, I would seriously considering taking this graph to the prom. It is colorful and informative.)

The data is of interest because it shows the pay gap between male and female workers who are employed full-time. It breaks out the gap by industry and shows the size (based on total employment) of each industry. To find out which industries have the largest and smallest pay gaps, check out the article on the NY Times Economix blog, or the article in the Huffington Post.

Our final piece today isn't quite as employment-focused, but it's still pretty interesting. It's about consumer spending, and how it's changed in the aftermath of the Great Recession. A Citigroup survey found that more than half (52%) of consumers have forever changed their spending habits because of the recession. What makes that particularly interesting is a comparison to one year ago: Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63%) reported that their spending habits had forever changed. Maybe "forever" isn't quite as long as it use to be? Get more info in the full article.

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