Hiring Remains Firm, Trade Deficit Shrinks: July 2 – 6

Employers continued to hire in June while the trade deficit fell to a 1.5 year low in May. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending July 6.  

#1The labor market remained hot during the open days of summer. Nonfarm employers expanded their payrolls by 213,000 workers, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While down from the 244,000 added jobs in May, it essentially matched the 213,700 monthly average of the past year. Private sector employers added 202,000 jobs during June, split by 53,000 workers in the goods-producing side of the economy and 149,000 positions in the service sector. Industries adding the most jobs during the month were professional/business services (+50,000), manufacturing (+36,000), health care/social assistance (+34,700), and leisure/hospitality (+25,000). Retailers, on the other hand, shed 21,600 workers during the month. The average workweek remained at 34.5 hours (June 2017: 34.4 hours) while average hourly wages inched up by five cents. The resulting average weekly earnings of $903.81 was up 3.0 percent.Job Gains-2008-2018 070618

A separate survey of households found the unemployment rate jumping 2/10ths of a percentage point to 4.0 percent (June 2017: 4.3 percent). The good news is that this was the result of 601,000 people entering the labor force during the month. As a result, the labor force participation rate also grew by 2/10ths of a percentage point to 62.9 percent. Labor force participation remains below pre-recession levels, although that partially (but not totally) reflects an aging populace. The labor force participation rate for adults 25 to 54 was 88.9 percent in June, down 2/10ths of a percentage point from May but up 4/10ths of a percentage point from a year earlier. There is some progress still needed here too—the 25-54 participation rate was about two full percentage points higher during the previous economic expansion. Falling to post-recession lows were the median length of unemployment (8.9 weeks) and the number of people with a part-time job seeking a full-time opportunity (4.743 million people). The BLS’s broadest measure of labor underutilization (the “U-6” series) shed 2/10ths of a percentage point to 7.8 percent, matching its post-recession low.

#2The trade deficit narrowed to its smallest reading in 19 months. The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis report that exports grew by $4.1 billion to $215.3 billion (+11.7 percent versus May 2017) while imports increased by a more modest $1.1 billion to $258.4 billion (+8.3 percent versus May 2017). As a result, the trade deficit contracted by $3.0 billion to -$43.1 billion, down 6.0 percent from a year earlier and its smallest reading since October 2016. The goods deficit narrowed by $2.6 billion to -$65.8 billion (off 1.5 percent from May 2017) while the goods surplus widened by $450 million to +$22.7 billion (up 8.5 percent from May 2017). The former included the impact of a $3.6 billion rise in exported goods (including sizable gains for civilian aircraft and soybeans). The U.S. had its largest goods deficits in May with China (-$32.0 billion), the European Union (-$11.9 billion), and Japan (-$5.7 billion).

#3Factory orders grew during May, thanks to a gain in nondurable goods. New orders of manufactured goods increased 0.4 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted $498.2 billion. This represented the Census Bureau measure’s third gain in four months, leaving new factory orders up 9.2 percent from a year earlier. Durable goods orders decreased 0.4 percent (an improvement from the 0.6 percent decline previously reported). Falling were orders for transportation goods (-1.1 percent), fabricated metals (-1.1 percent), primary metals (-0.3 percent), and computers/electronics (-0.2 percent) while machinery (+1.2 percent) and furniture orders (+1.1 percent) both increased. Nondurable goods orders grew 1.1 percent during the month. Nondefense capital goods net of aircraft—a proxy of business investment—inched up 0.3 percent. Shipments grew for the 12th time in 13 months with a 0.6 percent increase to $496.1 billion (+7.2 percent versus May 2017). Durable goods shipments gained by less than 0.1 percent while those of nondurables rose 1.1 percent. Unfilled orders grew for the sixth time in seven months (+0.5 percent to $1.161 trillion) while inventories expanded for the 19th time in 20 months (+0.2 percent to $668.4 billion)

#4Purchasing managers signal business activity expanded during June. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) added 1.5 points to a seasonally adjusted reading of 60.2. This was the 22nd straight month in which the PMI has been above a reading of 50.0, which is indicative of an expanding manufacturing sector. Three of five PMI components improved from their May readings: supplier deliveries (up 6.2 points to 68.2), production (up 8/10ths of a point to 62.3), and inventories (up 6/10ths of a point to 50.8). The new orders and employment components each suffered small declines. Respondents from 17 of the 18 tracked manufacturing sectors reported growth during June, led by textile mills, wood products, and nonmetallic mineral products. Survey respondents expressed concerns about “employment resources and supply chains [that] continue to struggle,” and “how tariff related activity is and will continue to affect their business.”

The ISM’s measure for the nonmanufacturing sector of the economic added a half point to a seasonally adjusted 59.1. The NMI has been above the expansionary/contractionary threshold for 101 consecutive months. Only two of the NMI’s four components gained during the month: new orders (up 2.7 points to 63.2) and business activity/production (up 2.6 points to 63.9). The employment and supplier deliveries components both lost ground during June. Seventeen of 18 tracked service sector industries grew during the month, led by mining, wholesale trade, and retail. The press release reported that while survey respondents were “optimistic,” they were concerned about “tariffs, capacity constraints, and delivery.”

#5Construction spending grew in May. The Census Bureau estimates the seasonally adjusted annualized value of construction put into place increased 0.4 percent during the month to $1.309 trillion. This was 4.5 percent ahead of the year-ago rate. Private sector spending grew 0.3 percent to an annualized $1.005 trillion (+4.4 percent versus May 2017). Private sector residential construction spending expanded 0.8 percent during the month while private sector nonresidential construction spending slowed 0.3 percent (including falling activity in both the manufacturing and commercial sectors). Public sector spending was at an annualized $301.1 billion, up 0.7 percent for the month and 4.7 percent over the past year.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending June 30, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 231,000 (+3,000 vs. previous week; -20,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 224,500 (-8.2% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Vehicle Sales (June 2018, Light Vehicle Sales, seasonally adjusted annualized rate): 17.47 million vehicles (+3.3% vs. May 2018, +4.6% vs. June 2017).
FOMC Meeting Minutes

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

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