Key Economic Indicators – March 7, 2016

  • Total non-farm payroll employment rose 242 thousand in February, following an increase of 172 thousand in the previous month. Private-sector payrolls increased by 230 thousand in the month, while government employment increased by 12 thousand. 
  • The number of unemployed persons decreased by 24 thousand to 7,815 thousand in February. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9%.
  • The average workweek decreased from 34.6 hours in January to 34.4 hours in February, while average hourly earnings decreased by 3 cents to $25.35.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings were up 2.2%, and average weekly earnings were up 1.6%.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 6 thousand to 278 thousand in the week ending February 27. The 4-week moving average was 270.25 thousand, a decrease of 1.75 thousand from the previous week’s average.
  • Fourth quarter productivity decreased 2.2% (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the non-farm business sector, following a 2.0% increase in the previous period. Hourly compensation increased 1.1%, while unit labor costs increased 3.3%. From the fourth quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015, productivity increased 0.5%. In the year 2015, productivity was up 0.7% from 2014. Unit labor costs increased 2.1% in 2015, following a 2.0% increase in the previous year.
  • In 2015, annual average unemployment rates declined in 47 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 2 states, and were unchanged in 1 state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment-population ratios increased in 35 states and the District of Columbia, and decreased in 15 states. The U.S. jobless rate decreased by 0.9 percentage point to 5.3% in 2015, while the national employment-population ratio increased by 0.3 point to 59.3%.
  • Sales of domestic cars decreased 0.7% in February, while total light vehicle (cars and light trucks) sales decreased 0.1%. Total light vehicle sales were 17.4 million units in February, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, compared with 17.5 million in the previous month, and 16.3 million in February of 2015.
  • New orders for manufactured goods increased 1.6% in January, while shipments increased 0.3%. Excluding transportation, new orders were down 0.2%, while shipments were down 0.7%. New orders for January were down 3.3% from January 2015, while shipments were down 4.0%.
  • January construction spending was up 1.5% from the previous month, and was up 10.4% from January 2015. Private construction increased 0.5% in January, while public construction increased 4.5%.
  • ·The Pending Home Sales Index, a leading indicator of housing activity, for January was down 2.5% from the previous month, but was up 1.4% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates moving higher for the first time in two months. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.64% for the week ending March 6, up from last week when it averaged 3.62%. A year ago, the 30-year rate averaged 3.75%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.94%, up from last week when it averaged 2.93%. A year ago, the 15-year rate averaged 3.03%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 4.8% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending February 26th.
  • In January international trade deficit was $45.7 billion, $1.0 billion less than the revised December figure. January exports were down $3.8 billion from December, while imports were down $2.8 billion.
  • The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing survey indicated that the manufacturing sector contracted in February for the fifth consecutive month, while the overall economy grew for the 81st consecutive month.
  • In February, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) non-manufacturing survey results indicated growth in the non-manufacturing business activity for the 73rd consecutive month.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that overall economic activity expanded in most Districts from early January through mid-February.

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