- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

MORTGAGES

LOS ANGELES — U.S. homeowners are getting better about keeping up with their mortgage payments, driving the percentage of borrowers who have fallen behind to a three-year low, according to a new report.

Still, the rate of decline remains slow, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday. The percentage of mortgages going unpaid is unlikely to return anytime soon to where it was before the housing market crashed.

Some 5.49 percent of the nation’s mortgage holders were behind on their payments by 60 days or more in the April-to-June period, the agency said. That’s the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009.

The second-quarter delinquency rate is down from 5.82 percent in the same period last year, and below the 5.78 percent rate for the first three months of 2012.

LABOR

Employers post most jobs in 4 years

U.S. employers posted the most job openings in four years in June, a positive sign that hiring may pick up.

The Labor Department said Tuesday job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million in June, up from 3.7 million in May. That’s the most since July 2008. Layoffs fell.

The data follow Friday’s report that said employers in July added the most jobs in five months. A rise in openings could signal better hiring in the coming months. It typically takes one to three months to fill a job.

Even with the increase, hiring is competitive.

There were 12.7 million unemployed people in June, or an average of 3.4 unemployed people for each job.

That’s down a bit from May and much lower than the nearly 7-to-1 ratio in July 2009, just after the recession ended. In a healthy job market, the ratio is usually around 2-to-1.

Still, employers have been slow to fill jobs. Since the recession ended in 2009, openings have increased 57 percent. Overall hiring is up only 19 percent.

CREDIT

Consumers cut back on credit cards

Americans cut back on credit card use in June, further evidence that high unemployment and slow growth has made consumers more cautious about spending.

Overall consumer borrowing rose because of increases in auto and student loans. The Federal Reserve says total borrowing increased 3 percent to $2.58 trillion in June from May. That’s just below the all-time high reached in July 2008.

Credit card debt fell 5 percent to $864.6 billion. A category of borrowing that includes auto and student loans increased 7 percent to $1.71 trillion.

Americans have been relying less on credit cards since the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession. But much of that has been offset by a dramatic increase in student loans.

MEDIA

Newsstand magazine sales slide 10 percent

NEW YORK | U.S. magazine sales fell nearly 10 percent in the first half of 2012, a troubling sign for publishers that suggests Americans are still being careful about discretionary spending.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations said Tuesday that overall circulation, including subscriptions, was just about flat from a year earlier. But single-copy sales, which are more closely watched — because publishers make more money from them — continued to fall.

Subscriptions are typically sold at a discount, so publishers can increase their circulation and attract advertisers.

The industry group said that single-copy sales at newsstands and other retailers totaled 26.4 million in the first six months of 2012. That’s down from 29.1 million in the same period last year.

Cosmopolitan was still the top-selling magazine at newsstands, even though its sales fell nearly 16 percent to 1.4 million. Most of the top 25 best-selling magazines saw their sales decline. Family Circle and Woman’s Day were among the exceptions. Weight Watchers magazine saw the biggest sales decline — nearly 28 percent, to 325,950 copies in the first six months of the year.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports