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.

The Trade Deficit Shrinks, Job Openings Expand: June 4 – 8

The trade deficit narrowed while employers sought even more workers. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending June 8.

#1A small rise in exports leads to a smaller trade deficit in April. The Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis find exports grew by $0.6 billion during the month to $211.2 billion (+9.9 percent versus April 2016) while imports contracted by $0.4 billion to $257.4 billion (+8.0 percent versus April 2016). As a result, the trade deficit narrowed to its lowest level since last September at -$46.2 billion. The goods deficit shrank by $1.0 billion to -$66.3 billion while the services surplus essentially held steady at +$22.1 billion. The latter was pushed up by a $0.3 billion gain in exported goods (led by industrial supplies, food/beverages) and a $0.7 billion drop in imported goods (driven by a $2.8 billion decline for consumer goods and a $0.9 billion drop for automobiles). The U.S. had its largest goods deficits with China (-$30.8 billion), European Union (-$13.2 billion), Mexico (-$6.0 billion), Japan (-$5.9 billion), and Germany (-$5.6 billion).Trade Deficit 060818

#2There were more job openings in April than the number of people unemployed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were a seasonally adjusted 6.698 million job openings at the end of April, up 65,000 for the month, 9.7 percent from a year earlier, and the most in the 17+ year history of the data series. Further, there were more job openings at the end of the more than that were people unemployed (6.346 million). The number of private sector job openings has grown 10.0 percent over the past year to 6.117 million, with large 12-month comparables for transportation/warehousing (+46.2 percent), professional/business services (+22.9 percent), retail (+22.5 percent), manufacturing (+20.9 percent), and leisure/hospitality (+11.0 percent). Employers hired 5.578 million workers during the month, up 92,000 from March and 6.8 percent from a year earlier, with private sector hiring also rising 6.8 percent from April 2017 levels. 5.408 million people left their jobs during April, up 86,000 for the month and 5.8 percent from a year earlier. This number includes 3.387 million people who had voluntarily quit their jobs (+1.4 percent versus April 2017).

#3The service sector grew even hotter in May. The Institute for Supply Management’s NMI jumped by 1.8 points during the month to a seasonally adjusted reading of 58.6. This was the 100th straight month in which the measure has been above a reading of 50.0, indicative of an expanding service sector. All four components of the NMI improved from their April readings: supplier deliveries (+4.0), business activity/production (+2.2), new orders (+0.5), and employment (+0.5). Fourteen of 18 tracked service sector industries expanded during May, led by wholesale trade, mining, and real estate. The press release expressed optimism among survey respondents, but also noted some “concerns about the uncertainty surrounding tariffs, trade agreements and the impact on cost of goods sold.”

#4Fewer aircraft orders slowed factory orders in April. New orders for manufactured goods dropped 0.8 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted $494.5 billion. This represented a 7.4 percent year-to-year increase for the Bureau of Labor Statistics measure. As we saw with the durable goods report a few weeks ago, the headline number was dragged down by a 28.9 percent drop in orders for civilian aircraft. Net of all transportation goods, factory orders gained 0.4 percent during the month and has grown 7.4 percent over the past year. Increasing during the month were orders for furniture (+2.2 percent), fabricated metal products (+1.8 percent), electrical equipment/appliances (+1.8 percent), primary metals (+1.4 percent), computers/electronics (+1.1 percent), motor vehicles (+1.0 percent), and nondurable goods (+0.1 percent). Shipments eked out a less than $0.1 billion gain to $492.8 billion (+7.2 percent versus April 2018) with shipments net of transportation goods up 0.4 percent for the month. Unfilled orders grew for the fifth time in six months (+0.5 percent to $1.153 trillion) while inventories expanded for the 18th straight month (+0.3 percent to $666.9 billion).

#5Productivity was more feeble during Q1 than previously believed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates nonfarm productivity grew 2.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis (SAAR) while hours worked grew 2.3 percent during the first three months of 2018. As a result, nonfarm productivity 0.4 percent during the quarter, down from the 0.7 percent previously estimates and below the 1.3 percent productivity growth rate during the final three months of 2017. Nonfarm productivity has grown 1.3 percent over the past year. Manufacturing sector productivity contracted 1.2 percent during the quarter, sharply down from a 0.5 percent gain previously reported. Even with the pullback during Q1, manufacturing sector productivity has surged 4.3 percent over the past year.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending June 2, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 222,000 (-1,000 vs. previous week; -12,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 225,500 (-7.4% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Consumer Credit (April 2018, Outstanding Consumer Credit Balances (net of mortgages and other real estate backed loans, seasonally adjusted): $3.883 trillion (+$9.2 billion vs. March 2018, +4.8% vs. April 2017).

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

The Unemployment Rate Drops Below 4%: April 30 – May 4

Employers continued to add workers while the unemployment rate fell to its lowest point since 2000. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending May 4.  

#1The unemployment rate dropped to a 17.5 year low, but job creation lags a bit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has nonfarm payrolls growing by a good, but not great 164,000 during April (seasonally adjusted), following increases of 135,000 and 324,000 in March and February. Private sector employers added 168,000 workers during the month, split by 49,000 jobs in the goods-producing side of the economy and 119,000 in the service sector. Industries adding the most workers to their payrolls during April were professionals/business services (+54,000), health care/social assistance (+29,300), manufacturing (+24,000), leisure/hospitality (+18,000), and construction (+17,000). The average workweek remained at 34.5 hours while average hourly earnings added four cents to $26.84. As a result, average weekly earnings grew by $1.38 to $925.98 (+2.8 percent versus April 2018).

Based on a separate household survey, the unemployment slipped by 2/10ths of a percentage point to 3.9 percent, its lowest point since December 2000. Taking some of the steam from this news was that 239,000 people left the labor force during the month, resulting in the labor force participation rate slipping by 1/10th of a percentage point to 62.8 percent. Falling by the same amount was the labor force participation rate for adults aged 25-54 (to 82.0 percent). The median length of unemployment jumped by 7/10ths of a week to 9.8 weeks (April 2017: 10.3 weeks). The BLS’s broadest measure of labor underutilization (the U-6 series) hit another post-recession low with a 2/10ths of a percentage point decline to 7.8 percent.Unemployment Rate 1998-2018 050418

#2The Fed stays put in May, likely to act in June. The policy statement released following this past week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) continued to characterize economic growth as “moderate” and job gains as “strong.” Further, while household spending had “moderated,” business investment continued to grow “strongly.” Finally, core inflation measures continued to approach the Fed’s two-percent target. The FOMC voting members voted unanimously to keep the fed funds target rate between 1.5 and 1.75 percent, a rate the committee considers to be “accommodative.” The statement notes that conditions likely will “warrant further gradual increases” in its short-term interest rate target. The general consensus has the next rate hike at its June 12-13 meeting.

#3Personal spending rebounds in March. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that real personal consumption expenditures (PCE) rose 0.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month following declines in both January and February. Real spending on durable goods jumped 1.1 percent while expenditures for nondurables and services each gained 0.3 percent. As prices were flat during the month, nominal PCE also grew 0.4 percent during the month. The increased spending was prompted a 0.3 percent gain in both nominal personal income and disposable income. After adjusting for inflation, real disposable income grew by 0.2 percent. Funding the difference was the 2/10ths of a percentage point drop in the savings rate to +3.1 percent. Over the past year, real PCE has increased 2.4 percent while disposable income has gained 1.7 percent.

#4Aircraft exports prompt a sharp narrowing of the trade deficit in March. Per the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis, exports increased by $4.2 billion during the month to $208.5 billion (+8.8 percent versus March 2017) while imports slowed by $4.6 billion to $257.5 billion (+8.9 percent versus March 2017). As a result, the trade deficit contracted by 15.2 percent during the month to -$49.0 billion, which was still 9.5 percent larger than that of a year earlier. The goods deficit shrank by $7.5 billion to -$69.5 billion while the services surplus expanded by $1.3 billion to +$20.5 billion. The former was boosted by increased exports of civilian aircraft (+1.9 billion), foods/feeds (+$1.0 billion), and industrial supplies/materials (+$0.9 billion) and decreased imports of capital goods (-$3.6 billion), consumer goods (-$0.9 billion), and crude oil (-$0.5 billion). The U.S. had its biggest goods deficits with China (-$35.4 billion), the European Union (-$12.4 billion), and Mexico (-$7.0 billion).

#5Factory orders grew for the seventh time in eight months during March. The Census Bureau estimates new orders for manufactured goods increased 1.6 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted $507.7 billion (+8.1 percent versus March 2017). Transportation goods—and, in particular, civilian aircraft—were a major reason for the increase. Net of transportation goods, factory orders increased 0.3 percent during the month and was 6.6 percent ahead of its year-ago pace. Durable goods orders jumped 2.5 percent during March while those for nondurables gained 0.5 percent. Shipments increased for the 15th time in 16 months with 0.4 percent growth to $502.8 billion. Non-transportation goods shipments gained 0.2 percent. The value of manufacturers’ unfilled orders gained 0.8 percent to $1.154 trillion (its sixth increase in seven months) while inventories expanded 0.3 percent to $677.3 billion (its 16th increase over the past 17 months). 

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending April 28, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 211,000 (+2,000 vs. previous week; -31,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 221,500 (-9.3% vs. the same week a year earlier).
Productivity (Q1 2018-preliminary, Nonfarm Labor Productivity, seasonally adjusted): +0.7% vs. Q3 2017, +1.3% vs. Q1 2017).
ISM Report on Business-Manufacturing (April 2018, PMI (Index (>50=expanding manufacturing sector)), seasonally adjusted): 57.3 (-2.0 points vs. March 2018).
ISM Report on Business-Nonmanufacturing (April 2018, NMI (Index (>50=expanding service sector)), seasonally adjusted): 56.8 (-2.0 points vs. March 2018).
Construction Spending (March 2018, Value of Construction Put in Place, seasonally adjusted annualized rate): $1.285 trillion (-1.7% vs. February 2018, +3.6% vs. March 2017).
Vehicle Sales (April 2018, Light Vehicle Retail Sales, seasonally adjusted annualized rate): 17.17 million units (-1.8% vs. March 2018, +0.8% vs. April 2017).
Pending Home Sales (March 2018, Index (2001=100), seasonally adjusted): 107.6 (+0.4% vs. February 2018, -3.0% vs. March 2017).

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