The Friday release of new unemployment numbers caps off a week of fresh financial data reports — all offering clues on the state of the nation’s economic recovery.
The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing composite index takes the pulse of manufacturing firms nationwide, probing purchasing managers’ plans for new orders, production and employment, among other factors. It gives investors some clues as to how confident businesses are feeling about the economy.
The manufacturing composite index rose from October through January, before declining in February. Forecasters expect Monday’s data, which are drawn from surveys done in March, to show a slight increase in the index, from 52.4 to 53.1, indicating increased confidence from the manufacturing sector.
Autodata releases its monthly report on motor vehicle sales, which could give insights into levels of consumer confidence. Investors watch motor vehicle sales to get a sense of consumers’ willingness to make a large purchase, providing a measure of economic stability.
Motor vehicle sales have been increasing since August, hitting 15.03 million in February. Analysts expect the March data to show a slight decline, to 14.5 million.
The Labor Department releases its data on initial unemployment claims. Last week saw jobless claims hit 359,000. Overall, initial unemployment claims have been declining since last April. Expectations are that they continued to fall in March, with analysts predicting new data to show 356,000 initial jobless claims.
In what is arguably the most important indicator of the week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its monthly data on unemployment levels. Unemployment has been on the decline since September, when it hovered around 9.1 percent. In February, unemployment hit 8.3 percent, a number that forecasters expect held constant in March.
— Sarah Kliff
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