Economy Watch: U.S. Births Slightly Higher in 2013 Than ’12

The National Center for Health Statistics reported in “Births: Preliminary Data for 2013” that the number of U.S. births was 3,957,577 last year, slightly more (4,736) than during 2012.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The National Center for Health Statistics reported on Wednesday in “Births: Preliminary Data for 2013” that the number of U.S. births was 3,957,577 last year, slightly more (4,736) than during 2012. That’s a notable number because it’s the first time since 2007 that the number of American births increased, even by a little. From 2007 through 2010, the number dropped steadily, and then the pace of the decline slowed from 2010 to 2012.

Of particular interest in the birth data was the fact that the number of births to teenagers (aged 15–19) in 2013 was 274,641—down 10 percent from 2012 and the lowest number of teen births ever reported for the United States. The 2013 number was 38 percent less than in 2007, the most recent high, and 57 percent less than in 1970, the all-time peak year for teen births. The factors contributing to the trend are complicated, but probably related to higher school enrollment rates among teen girls compared with previous decades.

Another important demographic trend: American women are waiting longer to have babies. The birth rate for women aged 20–24 was 81.2 births per 1,000 women in 2013, down 2 percentage points from the previous record low rate in 2012. The birth rate for women of that age has declined nearly 4 percent per year since the beginning of the recession.

By contrast, the 2013 birth rate for women aged 30–34 was 98.7 births per 1,000 women, up 1 percentage point from the rate in 2012. The number of births to women in their early 30s also increased in 2013, by 2 percentage points, and was up for women in their late 30s, too. The upshot of these trends is there might be a baby boom by about 2020, as the very large 20-24 population cohorts move into the 25 to 34-year-old groups.

Trade deficit continues to drop

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported on Wednesday that total June exports of $195.9 billion and imports of $237.4 billion meant a U.S. trade deficit of $41.5 billion, down from $44.7 billion in May, and smaller than expected. June exports were $300 million more than May exports, while June imports were $2.9 billion less than May imports.

U.S. exports have been humming along lately. Exports are now 18 percent above the pre-recession peak and up 3 percent compared to June 2013, according to Commerce. Imports are only about 2 percent above their pre-recession peak, and up 5 percent since this time last year. The U.S. doesn’t import nearly as much as oil as it used to, which is the main reason the overall trade deficit has been shrinking in recent years.

Wall Street spent most of Wednesday up, but ended the day almost where it started (there are a lot of things to fret about, including war and pestilence). The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 13.87 points, or 0.08 percent, and the Nasdaq was up 0.05 percent. The S&P 500 essentially broke even.

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