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Feel the Buzz? Employment, Consumer Debt Picture Improves

February 09, 2012
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Even as the U.S. Labor Department noted that available job openings increased sharply, news came that consumer borrowing was reaching pre-recession levels, both factors indicating

greater recovery momentum.

Earlier this week, the Labor Department said the number of open non-temporary public and private sector jobs reached 3.38 million in December, up from November’s 3.12 million jobs and a level matching a three-year high.

On Feb. 3, the government said employers added 243,000 net jobs in January, resulting in an unemployment rate improvement to 8.3%.

The Federal Reserve reported on Feb. 8 that consumer borrowing – both credit cards and bank loans – rose by $19.3 billion in December after posting a $20.4 billion gain in November – both the largest monthly gains in 10 years. While some of this was created by holiday shopping, a lot of the increase came from auto loans and student loans.

Seasonally adjusted total consumer borrowing now sits at $2.5 trillion, closing in on pre-recession levels and up 4.4% from the post-recession low in September 2010.

Analysts noted that the increased borrowing could be interpreted as a sign of growing consumer confidence, but recognized that the increased debt activity was coming even as wages are not keeping pace with true inflation.