The number of available jobs has been growing, but so has inflation. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending April 9.
Job openings hit a two-year high in February. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there were a seasonally adjusted 7.367 million open jobs at the end of the month, up 268,000 from January, 5.1 percent from a year earlier, and its highest mark since January 2019. Private-sector job openings rose by 352,000 during the month and were up 7.9 percent from February 2020, while public sector openings contracted by 84,000 in February and were 17.6 percent under year-ago levels. Employers hired 5.738 million people in February, up 273,000 for the month but stayed 4.0 percent below February 2020 levels. Job separations rose by 133,000 to 5.456 million (-4.5 percent vs. February 2020). Both quits and layoffs edged up 51,000, the former rising to 3.357 million (-2.1 percent versus a year earlier) while the latter grew to 1.775 million (-9.1 percent versus a year earlier).
Service sector activity accelerated in March. Services PMI, the headline index from the Institute for Supply Management’s Services Report on Business, rose 8.4 points to a reading of 63.7. Not only was this the Services PMI’s tenth straight month above a reading of 50.0 (indicative of an expanding service sector), it also was its record high. Index components for business activity/production, new orders, and employment all showed huge gains (in part showing sharp rebounds from February’s harsh winter). All 18-tracked service sector industries grew in March, led by arts/entertainment/recreation, wholesale trade, and mining. Respondents to ISM’s survey indicated that loosening COVID-19 related restrictions had “released pent-up demand for many of their respective companies’ services.”
Weather and supply chain woes end factory orders’ winning streak. New orders for manufactured goods fell 0.8 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted $505.7 billion. This was the first decline in ten months for the Census Bureau data series. Durable goods orders shrank 1.2 percent, while nondurables orders fell 0.9 percent. Shipments also declined for the first time after nine consecutive gains with a 2.0 percent drop to $502.4 billion. Durable goods shipments slumped 3.6 percent while that of nondurables edged down 0.4 percent. Unfilled orders swelled 0.8 percent (its second straight monthly gain) to $1.082 trillion, while inventories expanded for the sixth time in seven months (up 0.8 percent to $702.4 billion).
Wholesale prices rose in March. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand jumped a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent during the month. The resulting 4.2 percent year-to-year increase was the largest annual gain for the Bureau of Labor Statistics measure in 9.5 years. Core PPI, which removes energy, food, and trade services, gained 0.6 percent in March and was up 3.1 percent from a year earlier. Wholesale energy prices surged 5.9 percent (gasoline: +8.8 percent) while food PPI increased 0.5 percent. Core goods prices (net of energy and food) advanced 0.9 percent). Services PPI grew 0.7 percent, which included PPI for trade services (retailer/wholesaler margins) widened 1.0 percent.
The trade deficit widened as both export and import activity fell in February. Exports slowed by $5.0 billion to $187.3 billion during the month, while imports declined $1.7 billion to $258.3 billion. As a result, the trade deficit rose by $3.3 billion to $71.1 billion, up 87.0 percent from a year earlier and a record high for the Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis data series. The goods deficit expanded by $2.8 billion to -$88.0 billion, while the services surplus shrank by $0.5 billion to $16.9 billion. The former reflected, in part, declining exports for capital goods, consumer goods, food, and automotive vehicles/parts that more than counterbalanced falling imports of automotive vehicles/parts and consumer goods. The U.S. had its largest goods deficits with China, the European Union, and Mexico.
Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
- Jobless Claims (Week ending April 3, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 744,000, +16,000 vs. the previous week, -5,405,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 723,750 -81.1% vs. the same week a year earlier).
- Wholesale Trade (February 2021, Merchant Wholesalers Inventories, seasonally adjusted): $682.5 billion (+0.6% vs. January 2021, +2.0% vs. February 2020).
- Consumer Credit (February 2021, Outstanding Consumer Non-Real Estate Back Credit, seasonally adjusted): $4.206 trillion (+$27.6 billion vs. January 2021, Unchanged vs. February 2020).
- FOMC Minutes
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