EMPLOYMENT COSTS Tuesday, Apr. 25, 8:30 a.m. Labor costs for workers in private industry probably increased by 0.7% in the first quarter, the same small gain as in the fourth quarter of 1994. If so, the cost of total wages and benefits would have risen just 2.9% in the year ended in the first quarter, the slowest growth in compensation in almost eight years. Increases in both wages and benefits are slowing. CONSUMER CONFIDENCE Tuesday, Apr. 25, 10 a.m. The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence likely slipped to 100 in April, from a reading of 101 in March. That's the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. Consumers have become increasingly worried about the economy's performance six months down the road. The expectations index has fallen for three consecutive months. The assessment of present business conditions has continued to rise, bolstered by healthy job markets. GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT Friday, Apr. 28, 8:30 a.m. The MMS median forecast projects that the real gross domestic product grew at a 2.7% annual rate in the first quarter. That's about half of the 5.1% pace in the fourth quarter. Consumer spending and residential construction slowed, but inventory accumulation continued to barrel along. A big wild card will be foreign trade, which could subtract substantially from real GDP growth. Inflation last quarter, as measured by the GDP price deflator, probably rose 2.7% at an annual rate, not much different from the fourth quarter. DURABLE GOODS ORDERS Friday, Apr. 28, 8:30 a.m. New orders taken by durable goods manufacturers probably dropped by 0.5% in March, after falling 0.8% in February. That would be the first back-to-back decline in the data in two years. Weakening demand for consumer durable goods is dampening overall factory orders.
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