Economy shows small signs of improvement

There are small signs showing a slight improvement in the economy, according to the latest statistics.

There are small signs showing a slight improvement in the economy, according to the latest statistics. Devon County Council's economic analysis unit continues to keep a watchful eye following a 'Weathering the Storm' conference in February, and is paying close attention to what this means for the people of DevonThe number of people out of work and claiming job seekers allowance in Devon levelled off during April, which means there was little change in unemployment between February and March 2009. Unemployment in Devon held steady at 2.6 per cent, or around 11,400 people out of work, for the previous two months. Other indicators also point to some fairly positive signs in the economy as a whole. The FTSE 100 index has risen continually from the beginning of March to reach just over the 4,000 mark. In addition, the Dow Jones has showed an upwards path to reach levels not seen since January, suggesting a more positive global outlook.Retail sales have not been as bad as predicted and figures indicate a 0.3 per cent rise over the month. In particular, on-line sales showed signs of growth.In terms of the housing market, national mortgage approvals have increased from 32,000 recorded in January to 38,000 in February. Coupled with a decrease in the numbers of mortgage repossessions, this seems to indicate a sign of returning confidence in the housing market. Not all the indicators are positive. National output figures revealed a third successive quarter of decline with output falling by 1.9 per cent. There was a slight increase in agricultural output, bucking the trend with a 0.3 per cent increase. This is significant as agricultural output contributes to about three per cent of Devon's economy and Devon also produces about four per cent of the UK's agricultural output.Director of Planning, Infrastructure and Economy at Devon County Council, Graeme Bell, says: "One swallow does not make a summer, but the evidence points to a slowing of the recession in Devon and this is welcome news."Meanwhile, we will continue to work hard to help all communities in Devon through these difficult times and to plan for future prosperity when the up-turn comes."We'll continue to look closely at the situation here in Devon and support our local economy as best as we can.