MMAC economic indicators perk up

Modest gains were posted in metro area economic indicators for April as 12 of 23 monthly indicators tracked by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) improved from year-ago levels.

The number of improvements for April rank higher than the 10 positives registered in March.
“The number of positive indicators rebounded a bit from March with slightly more than half of such indicators pointing upward,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director. “This stands in contrast to recent months. For three of the previous four months, less than half of indicators tracked registered positive.”
Highlights of the report include:
* The overall job trend continued to show weakness in April. Nonfarm employment in the metro area fell at a 1 percent rate, the steepest year-over-year job decline in nearly two years (since, June, 2010) and the fifth consecutive month of decline.
* Three of 10 major industry sectors registered year-over-year job increases in April. The
manufacturing sector posted the largest gain – up 2.5 percent vs. year-ago levels. Conversely, seven of 10 major industry sectors posted employment declines with the 5.7 percent drop in the government sector ranking as the biggest percentage fall.
* Both area housing and real estate indicators posted substantial double-digit gains in April. Metro area existing home sales rose at a 43.1 percent pace (vs. year-ago levels) while mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County increased 41.9 percent.
* Unemployment indicators for the metro area improved in April. The number of unemployed fell 6 percent from one year ago, to 58,200 – this indicator’s 24th consecutive month of year-over-year decline. April’s decline led to a 0.4 percentage point fall in the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate. Metro Milwaukee’s rate averaged 7.4 percent in April, higher than the 6.8 percent rate posted statewide but below the 7.7 percent figure recorded nationally.
* New unemployment compensation claims in the metro area numbered 8,866 in April, down 13.5 percent from one year ago. April’s decline follows the 13.6 percent year-over-year decrease posted in March.
* Mixed results were posted among hours and earnings indicators for manufacturing workers. The length of the average workweek for production workers improved, up 0.7 percent from year-ago levels, to 42 hours. Average weekly earnings for such workers rose by $0.25 from one year ago (to $736.26) while average hourly earnings fell 0.7 percent, to $17.53.
* New-car registrations in the metro area fell for the fifth consecutive month. Registrations numbered 2,979 in April, a 4.7 percent decrease from one year ago.
* Air passengers using General Mitchell International Airport fell 19.3 percent in April, to 681,815 following the 17.7 percent decline posted in March (vs. March, 2011).
*The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for March, was $132.9 million, up 176 percent from March, 2011.

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