The U.S. economy is showing renewed strength thanks to an increase in retail sales and orders to goods manufacturers, but it remains unclear whether that growth will lead to more hiring soon, the Associated Press reported.
Sales rose in February by the largest amount since November 2007, retailers reported during the week of March 1. Also, U.S. factories in January reported their most significant increase in orders in four months—evidence that manufacturing remains the driving force in economic recovery.
Despite those gains, unemployment remains high. According to the Labor Department, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 29,000 to a seasonally adjusted 469,000 during the last week of February, according to the AP. But that drop represents only a partial improvement from the sharp rise in claims at the beginning of the year.
The rise in unemployment claims was partly due to several states processing a backlog of claims that had built up from weeks prior, when government offices were closed due to inclement weather. According to a Labor Department analyst, no states reported backlogs this week.
“It might be another couple of weeks until we get a clear picture of where claims are setting in,” Conrad DeQuandros, an economist at RDQ Economics told the AP.
In a separate report, the Labor Department reported that productivity rose by 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter, a sign that companies are increasing output without adding any new jobs. This exceeded analysts’ expectations of a 6.3 percent increase.
The recovery is also weighed down by a still-weak housing market. The amount of new home buyers fell significantly in January. According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, demand for housing sank as major snow storms slammed Eastern states.