The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and companies added workers at the fastest two-month pace since before the recession began according to the Associated Press.
Stats like this don’t mean much on their own. My goal today is to help put them in context and begin to help your ministry better understand the general economic conditions that ultimately have a very real impact on the finances of each and every church.
You already know that we’ve recently lived through the most significant economic downturn since the great depression. We won’t get into all the possible causes here, but what we will do is explore where we are today and some of the signs we are looking for to help determine where we go from here.
The goal of this economic update is to share some of the latest data on various economic indicators and my interpretation of that data. It’s actually more interesting and relevant than I just made it sound…
2011 started out with a national unemployment rate over 9%, University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Index stood at 74.5, housing starts, which topped out at an annualized rate of over 2,300,000 in 2006, have been bouncing around the 600,000 mark for several months, and sales of existing homes continue to be slower than hoped.
As of the end of March, unemployment was down to 8.8%, new-car sales were up, and there were some encouraging signs on business capital spending as well as banks showing a greater willingness to extend new credit. However, housing starts fell below 500,000 and consumer sentiment had an unexpected drop to 67.5 in March, suggesting consumers are worried, a concern that is likely fueled, at least in part, by the recent dramatic rise in gas prices.
While some progress has been made on unemployment and retail sales, shaky consumer confidence and a real estate market that simply won’t pick up continue to weigh on the economy and its ability to grasp on to meaningful recovery. Along with the general lack of direction across indicators, the recent spike in energy prices has created additional concern and real pain for the individual consumer.
The new normal is conservation and change. The individuals and institutions that understand and embrace this will be best prepared for recovery when it does fully take hold.
So what do all these numbers, stats, and trends mean for you and your ministry? For more on that, check out my post today at ChurchThought.com for some implications and suggestions.
Sites and articles consulted for this report:
Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers
Bureau of Labor Statistics