Job Openings Outpaces Unemployment Again: July 9 – 13

Employers continue to struggle to fill their job openings. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending July 13.

#1There remain more job openings than people unemployed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there were a seasonally adjusted 6.638 million job openings at the end of May. While down 202,000 from the prior month, the count of job openings was not only 16.7 percent larger than that of a year earlier but also higher than the 6.065 million people the BLS had reported being jobless in last week’s employment report. Private sector job openings have grown 16.6 percent over the past year, with some of largest year-to-year percentage gains seen for construction (+32.8 percent), transportation/warehousing (+28.9 percent), manufacturing (+24.6 percent), and professional/business services (+20.6 percent). During the same month, hiring grew by 268,000 to 5.754 million (+4.9 percent versus June 2017). Private sector hiring has risen 5.2 percent over the past year, with substantial year-to-year percentage gains seen in transportation/warehousing (+11.6 percent), health care/social assistance (+9.7 percent), accommodation/food services (+9.6 percent), professional/business services (+5.3 percent), and manufacturing (+4.2 percent). 5.468 million people left their jobs during June, an increase of 44,000 for the month and up 3.8 percent from a year earlier. This included a record 3.561 million people voluntarily quitting their jobs (increasing 212,000 for the month and 10.4 percent over the past year), reflecting the robust employment opportunities for workers.Job Openings Unemployment 071318.png

#2Consumer prices grew at a slower rate in June, thanks to lower electricity and natural gas prices. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, following two consecutive 0.2 percent monthly gains, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Energy prices fell 0.3 percent (its first drop since March), thanks to lower electricity and natural gas prices. Meanwhile, gasoline prices grew 0.5 percent. Food CPI increased 0.2 percent. Net of energy and food, core CPI expanded 0.2 percent for the fourth time in five months. Growing during June were prices for used cars/trucks (+0.7 percent), medical care services (+0.5 percent), new vehicles (+0.4 percent), transportation services (+0.2 percent), and shelter (+0.1 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, apparel prices slumped 0.9 percent. CPI has risen 2.9 percent over the past year, while core CPI has a 12-month comparable of +2.3 percent.

#3Meanwhile, wholesale prices firmed further. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand jumped 0.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in June, down from May’s 0.5 percent bounce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ core measure for wholesale prices—final demand PPI net of energy, food and trade services—grew by a more modest 0.1 percent. Energy PPI blossomed 0.8 percent, with prices for fuels and lubricants surging 21.8 percent. Food PPI, however, fell 1.1 percent as vegetable prices plummeted 13.8 percent. Net of energy and food, core goods PPI increased 0.3 percent. PPI for final demand services grew 0.4 percent, its largest single-month rise since January. Trade services PPI (a measure of retailer and wholesaler margins) jumped 0.7 percent in June after rising 0.9 percent during May. Over the past year, PPI has increased 3.4 percent, with the core measure of wholesale prices growing 2.7 percent over the past 12 months.

#4Even with a slight pullback, small business owners remained confident in June. The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business lost 6/10ths of a point during the month to a seasonally adjusted 107.2 (1986=100). Even with the decline, the index has been above a reading of 100 for 19 consecutive months. Five of the index components improved during the month (including those for current inventories and current job openings) while the other five lost ground (including those for expected real sales and whether it is a good time to expand). The press release argued that the “first six months of the year have been very good to small business thanks to tax cuts, regulatory reform, and policies that help them grow.”

#5The U.S. budget deficit continued to pace ahead of that from last year. Per the Department of the Treasury, the federal government ran a budget deficit of -$74.9 billion. Receipts totaled $316.3 billion for the month (down 6.6 percent from the same month a year earlier) while expenditures were $391.1 billion (8.8 percent smaller than that of June 2017). Over the first nine months of FY2018, the U.S. government has run up a -$607.1 billion trade deficit, up 16.1 percent from the same nine months during the previous fiscal year. Receipt collected over these nine months—$2.540 trillion—was pacing 1.3 percent ahead of that from the same period in FY2018. Over this same time period, personal income tax collections were 8.9 percent larger than that of a year earlier while corporate taxes were down 27.6 percent. Expenditures totaled $3.148 trillion, up 3.8 percent from the nine-month total of a year earlier.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending July 7, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 214,000 (-18,000 vs. previous week; -30,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 223,000 (-9.2% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Import Prices (June 2018, All Imports, not seasonally adjusted): -0.4% vs. May 2018, +4.3% vs. June 2017. Nonfuel imports: -0.3% vs. May 2018, +1.5% vs. June 2017.
Export Prices (June 2018, All Exports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.3% vs. May 2018, +5.3% vs. June 2017. Nonagricultural exports: +0.4% vs. May 2018, +5.4% vs. June 2017.
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment (July 2018-preliminary, Index of Consumer Sentiment, seasonally adjusted): 97.1 (vs. June 2018: 98.2, vs. July 2017: 93.4).
Consumer Credit (May 2018, Outstanding Consumer Credit-net of real estate-backed loans, seasonally adjusted): $3.898 trillion (+$24.5 billion vs. April 2018, +4.8% vs. May 2017). 

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

The Fed Moves, Likely to Repeat Twice More in 2018: June 11 – 15

The Fed raises its target for short-term interest rates as inflation moves ever so closer to targeted levels. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending June 15.  

#1The Fed boosts short-term interest rates and appears ready to do so twice more again this year. The policy statement released following this past week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) characterized economic activity as “rising at a solid rate” and that the labor market “continued to strengthen” with core inflation moving closer to the Fed’s two-percent target rate. The statement also noted that risks to future economic activity as being ”roughly balanced.” As a result, the committee voted unanimously to boost the fed funds rate by 25-basis points to a range between 1.75 and 2.00 percent. This was the FOMC’s second rate hike of 2018 but keeps the short-term interest target in a range the committee views as “accommodative.”

Accompanying the policy statement were the updated economic projections of Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve Bank presidents, which highlight a more optimistic view of near-term conditions. For example, the median forecast for 2018 economic growth increased by 1/10th of a percentage point to +2.8 percent and the expected unemployed rate dropped by 2/10ths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent. The forecasters also see a greater firming of inflation with the core PCE deflator (the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation) at +2.1 percent, up from the prior forecast of +1.9 percent. As a result, the median forecast for the fed funds target rate suggests two more quarter-point rate hikes this year (up from a single additional rate bump previously anticipated). Further, the median forecast points to three quarter-point hikes in 2019 and one rate hike in 2020.FOMC Fed Funds Forecast--2018-2020

#2Inflation continued to build steadily in May. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) grew 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the third time in four months, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Energy prices jumped 0.9 percent, as gasoline prices gained 1.7 percent. Food CPI held steady during the month. Net of energy and food, core CPI increased 0.2 percent and has grown 2.2 percent over the past year. (The 12-month comparable for the headline index was +2.8 percent). Jumping during the month were prices for medical commodities (+1.3 percent), new vehicles (+0.3 percent), and shelter (+0.3 percent) while prices declined during the month for used cars/trucks (-0.9 percent) and medical care services (-0.1 percent).

Meanwhile, the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand soared 0.5 percent (seasonally adjusted), its fastest rate of growth since January. The core measure, which nets out energy, food, and trade services, grew at a more modest 0.1 percent for a second consecutive month. Wholesale prices for final demand goods swelled 1.0 percent, led by the 4.6 percent surge in wholesale energy prices (PPI for gasoline: +9.8 percent). Final demand food PPI eked out a 0.1 percent increase.  Net of energy and food, core final demand goods PPI gained 0.3 percent. PPI for final demand services increased 0.3 percent for the fourth time in five months, which included the impact of a 0.9 percent advance in prices for trade services (reflecting larger retailer and wholesaler margins). Over the past year, final demand PPI has jumped 3.1 percent during which the core wholesale price measure (net of energy, food, and trade services) has risen 2.6 percent.

#3Retail sales surged in May. The Census Bureau estimates retail and food sales were at a seasonally adjusted $502.0 billion, up 0.8 percent from April and 5.9 percent from a year earlier. Motor vehicle sales jumped 0.5 percent while higher prices at the pump resulted in a 2.0 percent rise in gas station sales. Net of sales at auto dealers/parts stores and gas stations, core retail sales rose 0.8 percent to $443.1 billion (+5.1 percent versus April 2017). May was a good month for building material/garden supplies stores (+2.4 percent), department stores (+1.5 percent), apparel retailers (+1.3 percent), restaurants/bars (+1.3 percent), and health/personal care retailers (+0.5 percent). Sales slowed during the month at furniture stores (-2.4 percent) and sporting goods/hobby retailers (-1.1 percent).

#4Manufacturing decelerated in May. Per the Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production report, manufacturing output slumped 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, leaving it 1.7 percent ahead of its year-ago pace. The report links much of the decline to a “major fire at a parts supplier” that had disrupted truck assemblies. Net of vehicle production, manufacturing slowed by a more modest 0.2 percent. Output of durables fell 1.2 percent (motor vehicles production plummeted 6.5 percent) while that of nondurable slipped 0.1 percent. Overall industrial production decreased 0.1 percent during the month but was up 3.5 percent over the past 12 months. Mining output grew for the fourth straight month (+1.8 percent versus April 2018 and +12.6 percent versus May 2017), led by increased oil and gas extraction. Higher demand for electricity led to a 1.0 percent increase in output at utilities.

#5Small business owners’ optimism blossomed during the spring. The National Federation of Independent Business’ Index of Small Business Optimism jumped by 3.0 points to a seasonally adjusted reading of 107.8. Not only was this a post-recession high for the sentiment measure, it also was its second-best reading in the index’s second-best reading ever (a 45-year history). Eight of the index’s ten components improved from their April readings, led by expected real sales (+10 points), expectations for the economy (+7 points), on whether it is a good time to expand (+7 points), and earning trends (+4 points). While noting difficult in their ability to find qualified workers to hire, the press release stated employers “now have more resources to commit to attracting candidates.” 

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending June 9, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 218,000 (-4,000 vs. previous week; -22,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 224,250 (-8.1% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Import Prices (May 2018, All Imports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.6% vs. April 2018, +4.3% vs. May 2017. Nonfuel imports: +0.2% vs. April 2018, +1.9% vs. May 2017.
Export Prices (May 2018, All Exports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.6% vs. April 2018, +4.9% vs. April 2018, Nonagricultural Exports: +0.5% vs. April 2018, +4.9% vs. May 2017.
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment (June 2018-preliminary, Index of Consumer Sentiment, seasonally adjusted): 99.3 (vs. May 2018: 98.0, June 2017: 95.0).
Business Inventories (April 2018, Manufacturing and Trade Inventories, seasonally adjusted): $1.930 trillion (+0.3% vs. March 2018, +4.4% vs. April 2017).
Monthly Budget Statement (May 2018, U.S. Budget Surplus/Deficit): -$146.8 billion (vs. May 2017: -$88.4 billion). Deficit over first 8 months of FY 2019: -$532.2 billion (vs. +23.0% vs. first 8 months of FY 2018).

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

Job Openings Rise to Another Record: May 7 – 11

Employers continue having trouble filling open positions. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending May 11.

#1Job openings hit an (at least) 17-year high during March while growth in hiring lagged. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were a seasonally adjusted 6.550 million available jobs at the end of March, up 472,000 for the month, 16.8 percent above the year-ago count, and the most since the launch of the data series back in December 2000. Private sector employers had 5.928 million job openings, up 16.5 percent from a year earlier. Some of the largest year-to-year percentage increases in job openings were in construction (+38.5 percent), trade/transportation/utilities (+26.4 percent), retail (+24.0 percent), state/local government (+23.9 percent), professional/business services (+20.6 percent), financial activities (+17.2 percent), and leisure/hospitality (+17.0 percent). Employers had difficulty finding people to fill these positions as the 5.425 million hired workers during the month was down 86,000 from February and up a more modest 2.4 percent from a year earlier. Industries with strong year-to-year percentage gains in hiring included arts/entertainment/recreation (+26.0 percent), professional/business services (+13.5 percent), manufacturing (+12.7 percent), transportation/warehousing (+7.0 percent), and wholesale trade (+6.9 percent). 5.291 million people left their jobs during March, up 118,000 from February and 2.3 percent from a year earlier. This included 3.344 million people who quit their jobs (+6.4 percent from a year earlier) and 1.278 million people who were subject to a layoff (down 7.1 percent from March 2017).Job Openings and Hiring 2008-2018 051118

#2Consumer prices grew at a moderate rate in April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month, up from a 0.1 percent decline in March and leaving the measure 2.5 percent ahead of its year-ago mark. Energy prices rebounded 1.4 percent during April following a 2.8 percent pullback in March (gasoline prices increased 3.0 percent). Food prices grew at their fastest rate in 13 months with a 0.3 percent advance (fruits/vegetables, eggs, beer, and dairy products leading the way). Net of energy and food, core CPI saw its smallest gain since last November with a 0.1 percent increase. Helping keep the core measure in check were declining prices for used cars/trucks (-1.6 percent), new vehicles (-0.5 percent), transportation services (-0.4 percent), and medical care commodities (-0.2 percent). Rising were prices for shelter (+0.3 percent), apparel (+0.3 percent) and medical care services (+0.2 percent).

#3Lower food prices lead to the smallest increase in wholesale prices of the year. The final demand measure of the Producer Price Index (PPI) grew a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent during April following a 0.3 percent increase in March, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The core measure of wholesale prices—final demand PPI net of energy, food, and trade services—increased 0.1 percent following three monthly 0.4 percent gains. Final demand prices were unchanged during April as energy prices edge up 0.1 percent and food prices fell 1.1 percent (including a 17.8 percent drop in vegetable prices). Core final demand goods prices (net of energy and food) grew 0.3 percent for the third time in four months. Final demand PPI for services gained 0.2 percent, reflecting a 0.2 percent gain in trade services PPI and a 0.6 percent jump in transportation/warehousing prices. Over the past year, final demand PPI has grown 2.6 percent while the core measure (net of energy, food, and trade services) has increased 2.5 percent.

#4Small business owner confidence held firm in April. The Small Business Optimism Index eked out a 1/10th of a point gain to a seasonally adjusted reading of 104.8 (1986=100). This was the 17th consecutive month in which the National Federation of Independent Business’s measure was above a reading of 100. Four of ten index components gained during the month: earnings trends (up three points), plans to make capital outlays (up three points), current inventories (up two points), and expected real sales. Three measures declined from their March readings: plans to increase employment (down four points), expected economic conditions (down two points), and whether it is a good time to expand (off a single point). The press release claims that “[n]ever in the history of this survey have we seen profit trends so high.”

#5Consumers took on debt at a slower pace in March. The Federal Reserve reports that outstanding consumer credit balances (net of mortgages and other real estate backed debt) grew by $11.7 billion during the month to a seasonally adjusted $3.875 trillion. This was smaller than the $13.6 billion advance during February and left outstanding debt balances up 5.0 percent over the past year. Revolving credit balances (e.g., credit cards) contracted by $2.6 billion to $1.027 trillion (+4.8 percent versus March 2017). Nonrevolving credit balances (including college and auto loans) increased by $14.2 billion to $2.848 trillion. This represented a 5.1 increase from the same month a year earlier.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending May 5, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 211,000 (Unchanged vs. previous week; -26,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 216,000 (-11.7% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Import Prices (April 2018, All Imports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.3% vs. March 2018, +3.3% vs. April 2017. Nonfuel Imports: +0.2% vs. March 2018, +1.8% vs. April 2017.
Export Prices (April 2018, All Exports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.6% vs. March 2018, +3.8% vs. April 2017. Nonagricultural Exports: +0.7% vs. March 2018, +4.0% vs. April 2017.
U. of Michigan Consumer Sentiment (May 2018-preliminary, Index of Consumer Sentiment, seasonally adjusted): 98.8 (vs. April 2018: 98.8, vs. May 2017: 97.1).
Wholesale Inventories (March 2018, Inventories of Merchant Inventories, seasonally adjusted): $627.4 billion (+0.3% vs. February 2018, +5.5% vs. March 2017).
Monthly Treasury Statement (April 2018, Federal Government Budget Surplus/Deficit): +$214.3  Billion (vs. April 2017: +$176.3 billion).  The deficit over 1st 7 months of FY2018: -$385.4 billion (vs. 1st 7 months of FY2017: -$344.4 billion).
Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (April 2018).

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