With the holidays upon us, and the media already having cornered the market for sharing bad news (call it the “naughty list”), I was really glad to get a “nice list” of the good news I may have missed.
(Thanks to Jennifer Wilken, my longtime trusted economic advisor, for sharing this.)
1. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.6% in November, reaching a 21⁄2-year low, while the September and October reports were revised to show more job creation than originally reported.
2. The ADP employment survey showed the biggest gain in eight months. Small businesses (under 50 workers) added the most jobs in five years.
3. Over the past year, 1.6 million jobs have been created.
4. The private sector has added jobs for 21 consecutive months.
5. An average of 150,000 private sector jobs have been created each month for the past year.
6. The unemployment rate has dropped by 1% in the past year.
7. Manufacturing – November’s Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing index increased to a five-month high, while the new orders component rebounded to a seven-month high.
8. Home Sales – Sales of existing single-family homes rose 1.6% in October compared to September, versus expectations for a 2.2% decline.2 Sales were up 13.5% versus a year ago. Total housing starts also grew 16.5%, while building permits increased 17.7%.
9. Consumer Confidence – The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index jumped to 56 in November versus 40.9 in October. This exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts and marked the biggest one-month increase since April 2003.
10. Auto Sales – U.S. vehicle sales grew 14% in November, the sixth consecutive month of growth and the highest level since August 2009.
11. Black Friday – Retail sales rose 16% over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, topping off improving retail sales in general over the last several months.
12. Dividend Increases – Through the end of November, 312 companies in the S&P 500 increased or initiated a dividend for 2011, up from 232 in 2010 and just 143 in 2009.