Fresh off of a disappointing read last week on first-quarter economic growth, this week could offer the first glimpse of how the economy fared as the second quarter began.

Monday

Forecasters expect the Institute for Supply Management’s index of manufacturing activity to show a dip in April. After showing explosive growth in the sector for the past three months, the index is expected to fall to a more moderate pace of growth, 59.5, down frm 61.2 (numbers above 50 signal expansion).

Tuesday

Data on factory orders are expected to show a steady 1.9 percent gain in March.

Wednesday

The Institute for Supply Management releases its survey results for service businesses, which, in contrast to its manufacturing report, is expected to show a slight improvement in April. The group’s index of activity at non-manufacturing businesses is projected to edge up to 57.4, from 57.3

Thursday

The Labor Department releases first-quarter data on productivity, which analysts expect to show a 1 percent pace-of-productivity gain in the first three months of 2011.

Also, major chain retailers will be reporting on their April sales, offering the first read on consumer behavior last month.

Friday

The big highlight for the week is the April employment report. There have been two solid months of job growth in a row, and economists are expecting this report to show a third in April. They forecast that employers added 190,000 jobs last month, not far from the 216,000 in March and 194,000 in February.

If the result is in that ballpark, it would be solid evidence that the economy has weathered its various challenges in recent months — higher energy prices, geopolitical turmoil, and the Japanese earthquake — without losing its underlying momentum. And it would show that businesses are confident enough about the future to keep gradually adding to their payrolls despite those headwinds.

Analysts expect the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 8.8 percent.

Neil Irwin

Neil’s
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Find links at washingtonpost.com/

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