From Staff and Wire reports
VAN WERT - Another increase in sales tax collection in Van Wert County has officials pleased with economic progress locally.
According to a report from the office of Van Wert County Treasurer Bev Fuerst, collections of the 1.5- percent county sales tax had a slight increase over the same month one year ago. April 2013 collections, which reflect sales made in February 2013, were up nearly 1.5 percent over April 2012 collections. This marks the sixth straight month showing an increase over the same month a year earlier and 32 increases over the past 37 months.
Local sales tax collections show the amount of retail sales in the county; the trend in the county indicates steady growth. Total yearly collections have grown from 2009’s $3.28 million to $3.99 million in 2012. Thus far in 2013, the total is nearly $96,000 ahead of last year’s pace. That is an overall 7.17-percent increase.
An increase in businesses in the county has certainly contributed to the overall trend.
Meanwhile nationally, the U.S. economy saw some surprising growth, according to numbers released on Friday. In the face of tax increases and federal spending cuts, employers added a solid 165,000 jobs in April.
The job growth in April drove down the unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.5 percent and sent a reassuring sign that the U.S. job market is improving. Coming after a poor jobs report for March, the figures the government issued Friday helped ease fears that U.S. hiring might be slumping this spring for a fourth straight year.
The Labor Department revised up its estimate of job gains in February and March by a combined 114,000. It now says employers added 332,000 jobs in February and 138,000 in March. The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April — above the 138,000 added in the previous six months.
“This is a good report,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo. “There’s a lot of strength… It’s good for the economy. It’s good for people’s income.”
Not everyone was pleased with the report. U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) pointed out that the statistics which were released do not include the many who have given up looking for work.
In a statement, Portman said, “Although the unemployment number has fallen slightly, it does not paint the full picture of the current state of our hurting economy. What the topline numbers don’t tell you is that our labor force participation rate remained at the lowest level since 1979, meaning millions still have yet to see a real recovery and have given up hope of new opportunity.”
The solid month of job growth was driven entirely by the service industry. Construction companies and governments cut jobs, while hiring at factories was flat.
Professional and business services led all categories with 73,000 jobs added in April. Many of those were in higher-paying sectors: a sub-category that includes accounting, engineering and architecture firms added 23,000 jobs. Roughly 31,000 of the professional and business services jobs, however, were temporary positions.
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes hotels and restaurants, added 43,000 jobs after creating 38,000 in March.
And retailers bounced back, adding 29,300 jobs. That followed a disappointing March when they cut nearly 4,000 positions.
The biggest job gains were in lower-paying fields, such as hotels and restaurants, which added 45,000 jobs, and retail, which added 29,000. Temporary help firms gained 31,000 positions.
In April, more Americans said they had part-time jobs even though they wanted full-time work. That figure rose 278,000 to 7.9 million, reversing a steep drop the previous month.
Some economists worry that restaurants, retail chains and other companies are hiring more part-time workers in preparation for the implementation of health care reform. Companies with more than 50 full-time employees in 2013 will be required to provide health insurance to their full-time staff next year.
The revisions to the March and February figures were unusually large. Retailers, restaurants and hotels added 48,000 more jobs in February than previously reported. They accounted for three-quarters of that month’s revision.
The government revises each month’s job totals twice in the following two months. The revisions occur because many companies in the survey submit their responses late. Typically, about 75 percent of the 145,000 employers surveyed submit their responses in time for each month’s initial report. The response rate usually rises to about 95 percent for the third and final estimate.
The average workweek for private-sector employees declined 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours, but average hourly earnings rose 4 cents to $23.87. In the past year, wages have risen faster than inflation.
The number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months dropped 258,000 to 4.4 million. Over the past year, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 687,000.
Stock prices soared in response. The Dow was up 164 points in early-afternoon trading and briefly touched 15,000 for the first time.
The unemployment rate has fallen 0.4 percentage point since the start of the year, though it remains high. The Federal Reserve has said it plans to keep short-term interest rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent.
The job growth is occurring while the U.S. economy is growing modestly but steadily. It expanded at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, fueled by the strongest consumer spending in two years.
Consumers have been spending more even though their take-home pay was shrunk this year by a Social Security tax increase. On top of that, the economy has been under pressure from across-the-board government spending cuts that began taking effect March 1. And some small and midsize companies are concerned about new requirements under the federal health care law.
Americans’ steady spending points to a broader recovery in their financial health that’s easing the impact of the tax increase and raising hopes for more sustainable growth.
Home values are up. Prices rose 9.3 percent in February compared with a year ago, the most in nearly seven years, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index.
Rising home values have helped restore household wealth. Still, prices nationwide remain about 30 percent below their peak during the housing bubble in 2006. They’re back only to where they were in 2003.
Yet the global economy, by contrast, is slowing. The European Union warned Friday, for example, that the 17 countries that use the euro currency will shrink by a collective 0.4 percent this year. And unemployment across the eurozone is expected to hit an average of 12.2 percent. In Greece and Spain, it’s forecast to reach 27 percent.
Both Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi have suggested that governments need to focus on stimulating growth and not just on spending cuts and deficit reduction.