Key Economic Indicators – March 12, 2018

  • Total non-farm payroll employment rose 313 thousand in February, following an increase of 239 thousand in the previous month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private-sector payrolls increased by 287 thousand in the month, while government employment increased by 26 thousand.  Job gains occurred in construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities, and mining.
  • In February, the unemployment rate was 4.1% for the fifth consecutive month, and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.7 million.
  • The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage point over the month to 63.0%, but changed little over the year.
  • The average workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours, and average hourly earnings increased by 4 cents to $26.75.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings were up 2.6%.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 21 thousand to 231 thousand in the week ending March 3. The 4-week moving average was 222.5 thousand, an increase of 2 thousand from the previous week’s average.
  • Fourth quarter productivity held steady in the non-farm business sector, following a 2.6% increase in the previous period. Hourly compensation increased 2.4%, while unit labor costs increased 2.5%. From the fourth quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2017, productivity increased 1.1%, reflecting increases in output and hours worked of 3.2% and 2.1%, respectively.
  • New orders for manufactured goods decreased 1.4% in January, while shipments increased 0.6%. Year-to-date, New orders were up 8.4%, and shipments were up 8.0%.
  • Sales of merchant wholesalers in January decreased 1.1% from December, while inventories increased 0.8%.  The January inventories/sales ratio was 1.26, compared with 1.28 in January 2017.
  • In January international trade deficit was $56.6 billion, $2.7 billion more than the revised December figure. January exports were $200.9 billion, $2.7 billion less than December exports. January imports were $257.5 billion, down less than $0.1 billion from December imports.
  • The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $98.7 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding was $49.1 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017, of which household debt was $15.3 trillion, nonfinancial business debt was $14.3 trillion, and total government debt was $19.5 trillion.
  • Household debt increased at an annual rate of 5.2% in the fourth quarter of 2017, while nonfinancial business debt rose at an annual rate of 3.7%. Federal government debt decreased 0.2% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2017, while state and local government debt expanded at an annual rate of 4.2%.
  • January consumer credit outstanding increased at an annual rate of 4.25% to $3,855.0 billion. Revolving credits decreased at an annual rate of 0.8%, while non-revolving credits increased 5.6%.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates moving higher. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.46% for the week ending March 8, up from last week when it averaged 4.43%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.21%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.94%, up from last week when it averaged 3.90%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.42%.
  • Mortgage applications increased 0.3% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending March 2nd.
  • In February, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) non-manufacturing survey results indicated growth in the non-manufacturing business activity (exceeded 50.0%) for the 97th consecutive month. Sixteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth, and two industries reported contraction.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that economic activity expanded at a modest to moderate pace across all Districts in January and February.

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