It’s too early to call it a trend, but USD’s economic index rose in April, breaking a two-year string of consecutive monthly declines.

The rise came from a “sea change” for local consumer confidence, which logged a record monthly jump for any component in the index. Also helping were gains in building permits, stock prices for local companies and the national economic outlook.

Still, the number of unemployed workers filing for assistance was up sharply — a negative for the index — and help wanted ads continued to slump.

Here’s USD economist Alan Gin:

While caution needs to be exercised about drawing conclusions from just a single month’s worth of data, this is definitely good news at a time when there hasn’t been much about the local economy.

In addition to being down every month for two full years, the USD Index had been down 35 out of the last 36 months, and last six months were the six biggest monthly declines on record. Since economists typically look for three consecutive moves in one direction for a leading index to signal a turning point, it remains to be seen if a turnaround is in sight. If it is signaled in the next couple of months, the timing looks to be towards the end of this year or the first part of 2010.

Even if a bottom is reached, it is likely that the rebound from there will be weak. Indeed, there could be a significant period where the local economy remains flat after reaching that bottom.

KELLY BENNETT

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