Several factors indicate Utah and the United States may be gaining ground in the battle to recover from the current economic recession.
First, the number of Utahns filing for bankruptcy protection declined in July after months of staggering increases.
Last week, the United States Bankruptcy Court confirmed that 1,778 Utahns filed for protection in July. The federal court recorded 137 fewer bankruptcy cases in July 2003 compared to 2001.
The 7 percent decline in statewide bankruptcy filings marks the first year-over monthly decrease reported since January.
Second, consumer and business spending climbed 1.8 percent statewide in May 2003 compared to last year, pointed out the Utah Tax Commission.
The increase serves as a signal that the state's weak economy may be improving.
In 2002, spending by individuals and businesses in Utah rose only 0.3 percent to $32.5 billion - the lowest increase posted in the state in 15 years.
Utahns are shelling out as much as 10 cents more a gallon for unleaded regular gasoline as mounting demand and short supplies of crude oil hike the pump prices, according to AAA Utah. St. George topped the list of price jumps, with a 10 cent increase to $1.68. Moab posted the smallest increase, rising 1 cent to $1.75.
Ending Aug. 9, the four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed throughout the state registered at 1,546, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The number represents a decrease of 5 percent from last year's 1,635 four-week average.
All initial unemployment benefit claims filed in Utah during week totalled 1,517. Weeks claimed numbered 17,266, representing a 7 percent from last year's 18,546 total.
At the national level, claims for unemployment benefits last week edged up by 2,000 to reach 398,000, reported the U.S. Labor Department. Nevertheless, the total number of claims filed nationwide did not exceed 400,000, a level associated with a weak labor market.
Unemployment filings have registered at less than the 400,000 level for four consecutive weeks, a sign that the pace of layoffs occurring throughout the United States may finally be stabilizing, according to the latest Trendlines publication drafted by the Utah agency.
The number of unemployment insurance claims filed nationwide topped the 450,000 in mid-April, pointed out the U.S. Labor Department.
U.S. industrial output in July registered the largest gain since January. Expanding utilities output and a third straight monthly rise in factory activity boosted the gain, explained the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Production at factories, mines and utilities jumped 0.5 percent for the largest rise since January's 0.7 percent gain.
In addition, American firms operated at a faster 74.5 percent of full capacity in July, up from 74.2 percent from the prior month, added the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Consumer prices inched up 0.2 percent nationwide in July, easing underlying economic concerns that the U.S. could be heading for deflation, noted the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The federal government's closely monitored inflation barometer, the relatively stable consumer price index suggests that neither an upward spiral in inflation or a downward price spiral is in the offing.
Excluding energy and food costs, core consumer prices paid by American consumers inched up 0.2 percent in July after remaining flat in June, reported the U.S. Labor Department.
Wholesale prices nudged up 0.1 percent, restrained by falling food and moderating energy costs.
The nation experienced a slight increase in the producer price index last month after wholesale costs jumped 0.5 percent in June, added the U.S. Labor Department. The index measures prices before products reach the store shelves.
The significantly increasing energy costs posted during the last several months influenced the producer price index, pointed out the federal department. But energy product price have started to ease slightly.
The U.S. Federal Reserve and U.S. policy setting agencies left the short-term interest rates unchanged at the lowest levels in 45 years. The federal agencies expressed guarded optimism that the sluggish U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery.
In addition, the central bank confirmed an intent to leave rates low for a "considerable period," primarily to prevent inflation from falling to dangerously low levels.
American consumers splurged in July, purchasing cars, appliances and apparel, reported the U.S. Commerce Department.
The purchases virtually catapulted the sales taking place at the nation's retailers by 1.4 percent and the largest increase recorded in four months.
In April, retail sales fell 0.3 percent nationwide.
Inventories at businesses across the nation unexpectedly jumped in June and the situation could raise concerns regarding the strength of production, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department.
Larger inventories ease pressure companies to ramp up production, since the firms can meet the demand for goods from current stocks, explained the DWS Trendlines publication. On the other hand, lower inventories often precede an upturn in production.
U.S. import prices climbed in July, increasing 0.5 percent compared to June's 0.7 percent rise, reported the U.S. Labor Department said. Export prices declined 0.1 percent.
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply in June and the gap registered at $39.5 billion, down from an estimated $41.5 billion in May, concluded the Utah Department of Workforce Services.