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Jobs and the Slow Road to Economic Recovery

Many experts believe the U.S. recession will end soon. But the housing market is unlikely to recover until employment improves. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The National Association for Business Economics has its latest predictions for the American economy. Most of the forty-five business economists questioned said they expect the recession to end in the second half of the year. But they also expect a slower-than-usual recovery.

Still, there were more signs this week that Americans are feeling better about the economy. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index had its biggest jump in six years in May.

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes rose about three percent from March to April. The Commerce Department said sales of new single-family houses also rose -- but just by three-tenths of one percent.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency said home prices fell seven percent in the first three months of the year. But that was less than they fell at the end of two thousand eight compared to a year earlier.

Housing recoveries usually follow employment recoveries. Experts say job losses might slow later this year, but the unemployment rate could rise until the middle of next year.

Job losses help explain the latest numbers from the Mortgage Bankers Association. By the end of March, twelve percent of homeowners with a mortgage were late on loan payments or in the process of losing their home. California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada drove up the national numbers.

Pete Kyle is a University of Maryland finance professor. He agrees that the economy should begin to grow again in the second half of the year. But because of job conditions, he says, the recovery is "not going to feel like a recovery to the average person."

Unemployment was almost nine percent in April, the highest since the early eighties. High unemployment reduces spending which slows recovery. Professor Kyle also points to a weak property market, both for housing and businesses.

But what really set this economic downturn apart from others, he says, was the severity of the banking crisis. Many banks, he says, are going to need additional capital to deal with bad loans and heavy debt.

Heavy government debt only adds to unease about the future after the so-called Great Recession.

But President Obama says "we have stepped back from the brink." He says there is now some calm that did not exist before. But he also says Americans cannot return to a "borrow-and-spend economy."

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.