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More Americans feel they're slipping from middle class after harsh recession and slow recovery

WASHINGTON - A sense of belonging to the middle class occupies a cherished place in America. It conjures images of self-sufficient people with stable jobs and pleasant homes working toward prosperity. Yet nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, more people are coming to the painful realization that they're no longer part of it.

Spanish jobless numbers decline in March: official data

Spain reported Wednesday a slide in jobless numbers in March as the economy gingerly recovered from a long, employment-destroying recession. The number of people registered as unemployed fell by 16,620 from the previous month to 4.80 million in March, the steepest decline for March since 2006, the Labour Ministry said. After correcting the data to smooth out seasonal fluctuations, the ranks of the registered unemployed fell by 17,000 people, the eighth straight month of decline, it said.

China factories struggle, adds to expectations for stimulus

By Kevin Yao and Adam Rose BEIJING (Reuters) - Persistent weakness in China's manufacturing sector reinforced fears of a sharper-than-expected slowdown at the start of 2014, and some government economists think authorities have already started boosting spending to put a floor under growth. On Tuesday two surveys showed that manufacturing struggled in March, with activity at smaller, private firms contracting for a third month, adding to a run of disappointing data that has sparked speculation of imminent government-led stimulus.

European economic recovery not strong enough to make dent in near-record unemployment rate

BRUSSELS - The 18-country eurozone may have emerged from recession last year, but that has done little good to the jobs market, with unemployment stuck near a record high since then. A new report on Tuesday showed that while the number of jobless in the currency union dipped in February, the unemployment rate remained at 11.9 per cent — where it has been since October after peaking at 12.1 per cent earlier in the year.

US construction spending up tiny 0.1 per cent in February despite drop in housing construction

WASHINGTON - U.S. construction spending posted a slight increase in February as a rebound in construction of hotels and other nonresidential buildings offset a decline in housing. But housing construction fell as activity was still being depressed by the harsh winter. Construction spending increased a scant 0.1 per cent in February after a 0.2 per cent drop in January, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The increase left construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $945.7 billion, 8.7 per cent above the level of a year ago.

Leaner, meaner Canadian manufacturing poised for better times: report

OTTAWA - A new economic report on Canada's troubled manufacturing sector suggests that factories that have weathered the storm have positioned themselves for better times. The paper from CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal points out that the sector — one of the most important to Canada's economy and especially Ontario's — has had a terrible time of it since the turn of the century, and even worse since the 2008-09 recession. Since the recent crisis, manufacturing is still 10 per cent behind pre-slump highs, while one-fifth of firms just simply disappeared.

Japan business confidence at more than 6-year high

Japanese business confidence has soared to a more than six-year high, the Bank of Japan said Tuesday, underscoring a fragile economic recovery, but company bosses appear cautious about the future. The Tankan survey, which covers the January-March quarter, surged to its highest level since December 2007, with a reading for large manufacturers rising to plus 17 from plus 16 in its December survey -- marking the difference between firms that are upbeat from those that see conditions as unfavourable.

China manufacturing up in March but weakness remains

China's manufacturing activity improved slightly in March from the previous month, the government said Tuesday, but analysts said the world's second biggest economy remained weak. The official purchasing managers index (PMI) was 50.3 in March helped by an improvement in export orders, the National Bureau of Statistics said, up from an eight-month low of 50.2 in February. The index tracks manufacturing activity in China's factories and workshops and is a closely watched indicator of the health of the economy. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Japan business mood recovery slows, outlook dims: BOJ tankan

By Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese business sentiment barely improved in the three months to March and is set to sour in the following quarter, a closely watched central bank survey showed, underscoring the challenges facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his efforts to reflate the economy out of stagnation.

Australia manufacturing survey shows further dip in March

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A measure of Australian manufacturing activity showed another month of contraction in March as firms complained that a rising currency was intensifying competition from imports. The Australian Industry Group's performance of manufacturing index (PMI) slipped 0.7 points in March to 47.9, below the 50 level that is supposed to mark the threshold between contraction and expansion.
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