- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

CHICAGO, Jan. 30 (UPI) — The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said its National Activity Index, which compiles a broad range of economic indicators, remained below zero for the fifth consecutive month in December.

The regional central bank said its index improved to -0.49 from -0.55 in November.

Weak employment and production data made "substantial negative contributions" to the December index, the Chicago Fed said.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6 percent in December and payrolls fell 101,000.

The Chicago Fed said persistent weakness in the monthly index left the 3-month moving average index essentially unchanged at -0.61 in December from -0.63 in November.

The regional index collates 85 indicators, many of which have already been published, that cover employment, personal consumption, manufacturing, production and inventories.

The 85 economic indicators that comprise the Chicago Fed's index are drawn from five categories: production and income; employment, unemployment and hours; personal consumption, housing starts and sales; manufacturing and trade sales; and inventories and orders.

Since the most recent business cycle peak in March 2001, the moving average has been in positive territory only once, in July 2002. The negative 3-month reading indicates that growth in the national economy is below trend.

Zero values in the index indicate a national economy expanding at historical trends, while negative values indicate below-trend growth and positive values signal growth above trend, the Chicago Fed said.





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