The number of job openings blossomed while hiring slowed in July. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates there were a seasonally adjusted 5.723 million job openings at the end of July. This was up 8.1% from June, 21.7% above year ago levels and (by far) the highest count of job openings in the 25-year history of the data series. The number of private sector job openings was 23.7% above July 2014 levels, with the industries having the largest year-to-year percentage gains in job openings being professional/business services (+46.1%), retail (+26.5%), accommodation/leisure (+22.8%) and education/health services (+20.3%). But employers are not necessarily finding people to fill these jobs. Hiring decelerated 3.8% during the month to a seasonally adjusted 4.982 million jobs (off 0.3% from a year earlier). Also declining during the month were the count of separations, falling 3.9% for the month to 4.716 million (essentially unchanged from a year earlier). The good news is the count of layoffs was 11.2% below year ago levels, while the measure of voluntary quits was 6.0% above the year ago pace (a sign of worker confidence).
And hiring is anticipated to strengthen during Q4. 21% of U.S. employers surveyed by the ManpowerGroup expect to expand payrolls during the final 3 months of 2015 while 6% anticipate shedding workers. The resulting difference of +15 turns into +18 after seasonal adjustments. This was the highest reading for the seasonally adjusted Net Employment Outlook since the 4th quarter of 2007. The index grew in the Northeast (+16) and the Midwest (+17), but softened in the South (+17) and West (+17). The index also was positive in all 13-tracked industries, with the highest readings seen in leisure/hospitality, wholesale/retail trade, professional/business services and transportation/utilities. The press release characterized the labor market as having “broad-based, stable growth.” The company that warned employers were having “difficulty finding skilled candidates,” noting that this was partially the result of the low labor market participation rate.
Wholesale prices were flat in August, even as oil prices dropped. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand was unchanged during the month after increasing for 3 consecutive months. Per the BLS, PPI for final demand goods declined 0.6% while that for services grew 0.4%. On the goods side, energy PPI had its biggest single-month decline since January (-3.3%) as wholesale gasoline prices fell 7.7%. PPI for final demand food grew 0.3%, boosted by a 32.3% surge in the price for eggs “for fresh use.” Net of energy and food, core final demand wholesale prices declined 0.2%. On the services side, trade prices zoomed up 0.9% (boosted by higher margins at apparel retailers). Over the past year, final demand PPI has fallen 0.8% while the index for core goods was up a still paltry 0.7%.
Small business owner optimism held steady in August. The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business added a half point to 95.9 (1986 = 100). With few exceptions, the index has consistently remained in the low-to-mid 90s range since the spring of 2013. Five of 10 index components improved during the month, led by 4-point gains in indices for current job openings and earning trends. Three index components fell by 2 points: expected economic conditions, expected credit conditions and whether it was a good time to expand.
Consumers took on debt at their slowest pace in 3 months during July. According to the Federal Reserve, consumers had $3.453 trillion in outstanding credit (not including real estate-backed loans—e.g. mortgages) at the end of July, an increase of $19.1 billion for the month and a 6.8% gain over the past year. Revolving credit balances (i.e., credit cards) increased $4.3 billion during the month to $914.6 billion (+3.9% vs. July 2014, its biggest 12-month comparable in 7 years). Meanwhile, outstanding nonrevolving credit balances (e.g., car/truck loans, college loans) expanded by $14.8 billion to $2.539 trillion (+7.9%, its smallest 12-month comparable since February 2014).
Other data released over the past week that you might find of interest:
– Jobless Claims (week ending September 5, 2015): 275,000 (-6,000 vs. week earlier); 4-week moving average: 275,750 (+500 vs. week earlier).
– University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment (September 2015—preliminary): 85.7 (vs. August 2015: 91.9; September 2014: 84.6)
– Wholesale Inventories (July 2015): -0.1% vs. June; +4.9% vs. July 2014.
– Treasury Budget Surplus/Deficit (August 2015): -$64.4 billion (FY15 year-to-date: -$529.96 billion, -10.0% vs. FY14 year-to-date)
– Import Prices (August 2015): -1.8% vs. July 2015; -11.4% vs. August 2014.
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