Key Economic Indicators – March 11, 2019

  • Total non-farm payroll employment rose 20 thousand in February, following an increase of 311 thousand in the previous month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private-sector payrolls increased by 25 thousand in the month, while government employment decreased by 5 thousand.  In February, employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and wholesale trade, while construction employment declined.
  • In February, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 3.8%, and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 300 thousand to at 6.2 million.
  • The labor force participation rate held at 63.2% and has little changed over the year.
  • The average workweek decreased by 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours, and average hourly earnings increased by 11 cents to $27.6.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings were up 3.4%.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 3 thousand to 223 thousand in the week ending March 2. The 4-week moving average was 226.25 thousand, a decrease of 3 thousand from the previous week’s average. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (ongoing) during the week ending February 23 was 1,755 thousand, a decrease of 50 thousand from the previous week’s unrevised level of 1,805 thousand. The 4-week moving average was 1,766.5 thousand, an increase of 4.75 thousand from the previous week’s unrevised average of 1,761.75 thousand.
  • Fourth quarter productivity increased 1.9% in the non-farm business sector, following a 1.8% increase in the previous period. Hourly compensation increased 3.9%, while unit labor costs increased 2.0%. From the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, productivity increased 1.8%, reflecting increases in output and hours worked of 3.7% and 1.9%, respectively.
  • In December international trade deficit was $59.8 billion, $9.5 billion more than the revised November figure. December exports were $205.1 billion, $3.9 billion less than November exports. December imports were $264.9 billion, $5.5 billion more than November imports. For 2018, the goods and services deficit was $621.0 billion, up $68.8 billion from $552.3 billion in 2017. Exports were $2,500.0 billion in 2018, up $148.9 billion, or 6.3%, from 2017. Imports were $3,121.0 billion, up $217.7 billion, or 7.5%, from 2017. As a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, the goods and services deficit was 3.0% in 2018, up from 2.8% in 2017.
  • The net worth of households and nonprofits decreased to $104.3 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding was $51.8 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, of which household debt was $15.6 trillion, nonfinancial business debt was $15.2 trillion, and total government debt was $20.9 trillion.
  • Household debt increased at an annual rate of 2.9% in the fourth quarter of 2018, while nonfinancial business debt rose at an annual rate of 3.8%. Federal government debt increased 2.5% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2018, while state and local government debt contracted at an annual rate of 2.2%.
  • January consumer credit outstanding increased at an annual rate of 5.1% to $4,034.9 billion. Revolving credits decreased at an annual rate of 2.9%, while non-revolving credits increased 5.9%.
  • Housing starts in January were 1,230 thousand, up 18.6% from the previous month but were down 7.8% from a year ago. Building permits in January were 1,345 thousand units, up 1.4% from the previous month, but were down 1.5% from January 2018.
  • December new home sales increased 3.7% to an annualized rate of 621 thousand units. The December figure was 2.4% below the December 2017 figure. There were 344 thousand homes for sale at the end of the month. This represents a supply of 6.6 months at the current sales rate, compared to 5.5 in December of 2017. The median sales price of new houses sold was $318.6 thousand, 7.2% below December 2017.
  • Construction spending during December 2018 was 0.6% below the November figure. The December figure was 1.6% above the December 2017 level. Residential construction was down 1.4% from the previous month, and nonresidential construction was virtually unchanged. Both total private construction and total public construction were down 0.6% in December.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed mortgage rates moving higher after weeks of moderating. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.41% for the week ending March 7, up from last week when it averaged 4.35%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.46%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.83%, up from last week when it averaged 3.77%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.94%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 2.5% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending March 1st.
  • 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 109th consecutive month. All eighteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that economic activity continued expand in late January and February, with ten Districts reporting slight-to-moderate growth, and Philadelphia and St. Louis reporting flat economic conditions. About half of the Districts noted that the government shutdown had led to slower economic activity in some sectors including retail, auto sales, tourism, real estate, restaurants, manufacturing, and staffing services.

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