Key Economic Indicators – May 21, 2018

·      Advance estimates of retail and food services sales for April were up 0.3% from March, and were up 4.7% from April 2017. Year-to-date, retail sales were up 4.7% from the same period a year ago.

·      Total manufacturing and trade sales for March were up 0.5% from the previous month, and were up 6.4% from a year ago. Total business inventories were virtually unchanged from February, and were up 3.8% from March 2017. The total business inventories/sales ratio was 1.34, compared with 1.38 year ago.

·      Total Industrial production increased 0.7% in April, the same increase as in the previous month. The index was up 3.5% from April 2017. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.4 percentage point in April to 78.0, a rate that is 1.8 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2017) average.

·      Real state personal income grew on average 1.1% in 2016, after increasing 4.7% in 2015, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Real state personal income is a state’s current-dollar personal income adjusted by the state’s regional price parity and the national personal consumption expenditures price index.  The percent change in real state personal income ranged from 3.3% in Utah and Georgia to negative 3.6% in Wyoming. In the District of Columbia, real personal income grew 4.5%. Across metropolitan areas, the percent change ranged from 6.6% in Jacksonville, NC to  negative 8.1% in Midland, TX and Odessa, TX

·      Manufacturing sector multifactor productivity declined 3.2% in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the largest annual decline in manufacturing multifactor productivity since the series started in 1987. The multifactor productivity decline in 2016 reflected a 0.4% increase in output and a 3.6% increase in combined inputs. The decrease in multifactor productivity followed a 1.5% decrease in 2015. 

·      Labor productivity increased in 20 of 28 selected service-providing industries in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same number of industries as in 2016. Output increased in 19 industries in 2017, fewer than in 2016, while hours increased in more industries. Unit labor costs declined in 9 industries in 2017. Each of the industries with declines in unit labor cost also recorded increases in productivity.

·      The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 11 thousand to 222 thousand in the week ending May 12. The 4-week moving average was 213.25 thousand, a decrease of 2.75 thousand from the previous week’s average. This was the lowest level for this average since December 13, 1969 when it was 210.75 thousand.

·      Unemployment rates were lower in April in 4 states and stable in 46 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twelve states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 38 states and the District had little or no change. Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in April, 2.0%. The rates in California (4.2%), Hawaii (2.0%), and Wisconsin (2.8%) set new series lows (all state series begin in 1976). Alaska had the highest jobless rate (7.3%). In total, 16 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.9%, 10 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 24 states had rates that were not very different from that of the nation.

·      Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 3 states in April 2018 and was essentially unchanged in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 28 states added nonfarm payroll jobs, 1 state lost jobs, and 21 states and the District were essentially unchanged. The largest job gains occurred in California (356.8 thousand), Texas (332.3 thousand), and Florida (178.4 thousand). The largest percentage gain occurred in Nevada (3.4%), followed by Idaho (3.3%) and Utah (3.3%). North Dakota lost jobs over the year (7.9 thousand, or 1.8%).

·      Housing starts in April decreased 3.7% from the previous month, but increased 10.5% from a year ago. Building permits in April decreased 1.8% from March, but increased 7.7% from April 2017.

·      The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo rose to 70 in May, from 68 in April. The Index was 72 in January of 2018, and 69 in May of 2017.

·      The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that average fixed mortgage rates reached a new high last seen eight years ago. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 4.61% for the week ending May 17, up from last week when it averaged 4.55%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 4.02%. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 4.08%, up from last week when it averaged 4.01%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.27%.

·      Mortgage applications decreased 2.7% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending May 11th.

·      The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for May indicated that region’s manufacturing activity continued to expand this month. The Index was 34.4 in May, up from 23.2 in April. The prices paid diffusion index fell 3.8 points but remained at an elevated level of 52.6. The current prices received index, reflecting the manufacturers’ own prices, increased 6.6 points to a reading of 36.4, its second consecutive month of increase and highest reading since February 1989. 

·      The May Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that manufacturing activity grew strongly in New York State. The general business conditions index increased 4.3 points to 20.1 in May, from 15.8 in April. The prices paid index moved up 6.6 points to 54.0, its highest level since 2011, indicating a pickup in input price increases. The prices received index rose 2.3 points to 23.0, suggesting ongoing moderate selling price increases.

·      The Conference Board’s leading economic indicators increased 0.4% in April, the same increase as in the previous month. In the six-month period ending April 2018, the leading economic index increased 3.3% (about a 6.7% annual rate) with nine out of ten components advancing. The Conference Board’s coincident economic index increased 0.3% in April, following a 0.2% increase in the previous month. The coincident economic index rose 1.1 percent (about a 2.2% annual rate) between October 2017 and April 2018, with all four components advancing.

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