Key Economic Indicators – January 21, 2019

  • Total Industrial production increased 0.3% in December, following a 0.4% increase in the previous month. The index was 4.0% above the level in December 2017. The manufacturing index was up 1.1% in December, while the index for utilities was down 6.3%. The index for mining was up 1.5% in December. Total Industrial production for the year 2018 was up 4.1% from the previous year.
  • The rate of capacity utilization for total industry was 78.7% in December, compared with 78.6 in November, and 79.8 as the average of the 1972-2017 period.
  • Unemployment rates were higher in December in 4 states, lower in 3 states, and stable in 43 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fourteen states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 36 states and the District had little or no change. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 8 states in December 2018 and was essentially unchanged in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 40 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 10 states and the District were essentially unchanged.
  • Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 115.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $900 in the fourth quarter of 2018 (not seasonally adjusted), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was 5.0% higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 2.2% in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers over the same period.  Women had median weekly earnings of $794, or 80.0 percent of the $993 median for men.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 3 thousand to 213 thousand in the week ending January 12. The 4-week moving average was 220.75 thousand, a decrease of a thousand from the previous week’s average.
  • The producer price index for final demand (headline index) decreased 0.2% in December, following a 0.1% increase in the previous month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The index for final demand less foods, energy and trade held steady in December, after a 0.3% increase in the previous month. The headline index increased 2.5% from December 2017 to December 2018, while the index for final demand less foods, energy and trade increased 2.8%.
  • The import price index in December was down 1.0% from November, and was down 0.6% from December of 2017. The export price index was down 0.6% from November, but was up 1.1% from December of 2017.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey of January 17th showed average fixed mortgage rates remained flat after dropping for six consecutive weeks. 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.45% for the week ending January 17th, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed rate averaged 4.04%. 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.88%, down slightly from last week when it averaged 3.89%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed rate averaged 3.49%.
  • Mortgage applications increased 13.5% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending January 11th.
  • The January 2019 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity grew slightly in New York State. The headline general business conditions index fell eight points to 3.9, its lowest level in well over a year. The prices paid index decreased 3.8 points, while the prices received index inched up 0.3 point. Looking ahead, firms were less optimistic about the six-month outlook than they were last month.
  • The Philadelphia FED’s manufacturing business outlook survey for January 2019 reported that economic growth continued in the region. The index for current manufacturing activity increased from 9.1 in December to 17.0 in January. The prices paid index decreased 6 points, while the prices received index decreased 4 points in January.
  • The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment, preliminary, decreased to 90.7 in January, from 98.3 in December. The Index was 95.7 a year ago. The Current Economic Conditions Index decreased from 116.1 to 110.0, while the Index of Consumer Expectations decreased from 87.0 to 78.3.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that economic activity increased in most of the Districts. The majority of Districts indicated that manufacturing activity slowed down, while new home construction, existing home sales, and commercial real estate activity were little changed. Many Districts were less optimistic in response to increased financial market volatility, rising short-term interest rates, falling energy prices, and elevated trade and political uncertainty. Districts highlighted rising entry-level wages as firms sought to attract and retain workers and as new minimum wage laws came into effect. Most Districts indicated that firms’ input costs had risen, but reports were mixed on whether they could pass the higher costs on to customers.

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