On the upside, job openings reached a 14-year high in January, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The number of open jobs rose 2.5% to 5 million – the most since January 2001, as openings climbed across a range of industries. While available jobs increased, the pace of hiring slipped to the slowest rate since last August. At the end of January, there were 1.8 unemployed workers for every job opening.
Also on an upbeat note, small business optimism edged up in February, with NFIB optimism index reaching 98 – its third highest reading since 2007 (behind November and December of last year). “In spite of slow economic activity and awful weather in a lot of the country, small business owners are finding reasons to hire and spend, which is great news,” according to the NFIB.
On the downside, retail sales fell .6% in January, slipping for the third month in a row as consumers still hesitated to spend the windfall from lower gas prices.
Consumer sentiment slipped in March, as gauges of both current conditions and expectations declined. The University of Michigan’s index fell to 91.2 as optimism slid among lower and middle-income households.
Time is running out for people who did not file a 2011 tax return to claim a refund, the IRS said on Wednesday. The IRS has unclaimed refunds totaling $1 billion waiting for the roughly 1 million taxpayers who did not file for 2011. If those returns aren’t filed by April 15th, that money becomes the property of the Treasury. Residents of Texas, California, Florida and New York have the most in outstanding refunds.
The federal government ran a budget deficit of $192 billion in February, bringing the shortfall for the fiscal year-to-date to $387 billion. For the month, the government spent $332 billion and took in $139 billion.