Millions of jobs remained unfilled while inflation persisted. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending November 12.
Hiring did not keep pace with job openings in September. And even more people quit their jobs. There were a seasonally adjusted 10.438 million open jobs on the final day of the month, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While down 191,000 from August, the count of unfilled jobs was 57.9 percent greater than that of a year earlier. Virtually every industry reports sharp increases in the number of unfilled jobs relative to a year earlier. Industries with at least 1 million job openings included retail, professional/business services, health care/social assistance, and accommodation/food services. Meanwhile, employers hired 6.459 million people in September, up 62,000 for the month and 8.9 percent from a year earlier. Industries hiring at least 1 million workers during the month were professional/business services and accommodation/food services. 6.218 million people left their jobs in September, up 186,000 from the prior month and 18.8 percent from a year earlier. Layoffs held steady for the month at 1.375 million (-12.2 percent versus September 2020). Voluntary quits, however, continued to rise—growing by 164,000 from August and 34.1 percent from a year earlier to a record 4.434 million.
Consumer price jumped once again in October. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) surged 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month, its largest gain since June. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ measure has risen 6.2 percent over the past year. Energy prices swelled 4.8 percent (gasoline: +6.1 percent, utility delivered natural gas: +6.6 percent), while food prices rose 0.9 percent. Net of both, core CPI jumped 0.6 percent in October (also its biggest increase since June), with a 12-month comparable of +4.6 percent. Rising were prices for used cars/trucks (+2.5 percent), new vehicles (+1.4 percent), medical care commodities (+0.6 percent), medical care services (+0.5 percent), shelter (+0.5 percent), and transportation services (+0.4 percent).
The same held true for October wholesale prices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand increased a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent during the month and was 8.6 percent ahead of its year-ago level. The core measure for wholesale prices—which nets out energy, food, and trade services—grew 0.4 percent in October and was up 6.2 percent from a year earlier. Wholesale energy prices swelled 4.8 percent (gasoline: +6.7 percent; home heating oil: +13.0 percent) and food PPI slipped 0.1 percent (beef/veal: -10.3 percent; eggs: -12.1 percent; fresh vegetables: +14.6 percent). Net of energy and food, PPI for goods advanced 0.5 percent. Services PPI increased 0.2 percent, with trade services PPI (i.e., retailer/wholesaler margins) growing 0.4 percent.
Wholesale inventories expanded in September but continued to keep pace with sales. The Census Bureau reports merchant wholesalers’ inventories grew 1.4 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted $742.2 billion. Inventories were 13.1 percent larger than they were a year earlier. Durable and nondurable inventories swelled 1.3 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. Wholesale sales jumped 1.1 percent during the month, split by a 2.2 percent jump for nondurables and a 0.2 percent slowdown for durables. The resulting inventories-to-sales (I/S) ratio held steady at 1.23. A year earlier, the I/S ratio was at 1.33, while the ratio during the last month before the start of the pandemic (February 2020) was 1.32. The durables I/S ratio added 2-basis points to 1.54 (September 2020: 1.59; February 2020: 1.68) while the nondurables ratio shed a basis point to 0.95 (September 2020: 1.07; February 2020: 1.00).
Small business owner sentiment wobbled again in October. The Small Business Optimism Index lost 9/10ths of a point to a seasonally adjusted reading of 98.2 (1986=100). The was the lowest reading for the National Federation of Independent Business’s index since March. Only one of ten index components—plans to make capital outlays—improved in October. Seven indices declined during the month. Suffering the most significant drops were expectations for the economy to improve and earnings trends. Half of survey respondents indicated that they have open job positions.
Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
- Jobless Claims (Week ending November 6, 2021, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 267,000, -4,000 vs. the previous week, -461,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 278,000 (-63.6% vs. the same week a year earlier).
- University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers (November 2021-preliminary, Index of Consumer Sentiment (1966Q1=100), seasonally adjusted): 66.8 (October 2021: 71.7; November 2020: 76.9).
- Bankruptcy Filings (12 Month Period Ending September 30, 2021, Business and Non-Business Filings): 434,540 (-29.1% vs. 12 Month Period Ending September 30, 2020).
- Mortgage Delinquencies (2021Q3, Delinquency Rate for 1-4 Unit Residential Properties, seasonally adjusted): 4.88% (-59-basis points vs. 2021Q2; -277-basis points vs. 2020Q3).
- Senior Loan Officers Opinion Survey (October 2021).
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