• The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance skyrocketed to 3,283 thousand, from 282 thousand, in the week ending March 21. This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series. The previous high was 695 thousand in October of 1982. The 4-week moving average was 998.25 thousand, an increase of 765.75 thousand from the previous week’s average. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (ongoing) during the week ending March 14 was 1,803 thousand, an increase of 101 thousand from the previous week’s revised level. This is the highest level for insured unemployment since April 14, 2018 when it was 1,824 thousand. The 4-week moving average was 1,731 thousand, an increase of 27 thousand from the previous week’s revised average.
  • The Labor Department stated “During the week ending March 21, the increase in initial claims are due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus impacts. States continued to cite services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services. Additional industries heavily cited for the increases included the health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries.”
  • Unemployment rates were lower in February in 8 states, higher in 1 state, and stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eleven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 1 state had an increase, and 38 states and the District had little or no change. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 4 states in February 2020 and was essentially unchanged in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, nonfarm payroll increased in 21 states, decreased in 1 state, and  was essentially unchanged in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Private non-farm business sector multi-factor productivity increased 0.9% in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This 2019 increase reflects a 2.7% increase in output and a 1.8% increase in the combined inputs of capital and labor. Capital services grew by 2.9% and labor input–which is the combined effect of hours worked and labor composition–grew by 1.1%. Multi-factor productivity was revised up to an increase of 0.9% in 2018. The 0.9% annual growth of multifactor productivity in the private nonfarm business sector in 2019 is 0.1 percentage point higher than the average annual rate of 0.8% over the 1987-2019 period. For the period 2007-2019, reflecting the most recent business cycle, multifactor productivity grew at an average annual rate of 0.5% as output grew 1.9% and combined inputs rose 1.5%. The average annual increase in combined inputs reflected a 2.3% increase in capital services along with a 0.9% increase in labor input
  • Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, following a 2.1% increase in the previous quarter, according to the “third” estimate by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the “second” estimate, released a month ago, the increase in real GDP was also 2.1%.
  • Real gross domestic income (GDI) increased 2.6% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 1.2% in the third quarter.
  • The average of real GDP and real GDI, a supplemental measure of U.S. economic activity that equally weights GDP and GDI, increased 2.4% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 1.7% in the third quarter
  • The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.4% in the fourth quarter, the same increase as in the third quarter.
  • Real GDP increased 2.3% in the year 2019, following an increase of 2.9% in 2018. The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.5% in 2019, compared with an increase of 2.4% in 2018.
  • Corporate profits from current production increased $53.0 billion in the fourth quarter, after a decrease of $4.7 billion in the previous quarter. Profits of domestic financial corporations increased $0.7 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with a decrease of $4.7 billion in the third quarter. Profits of domestic nonfinancial corporations increased $53.7 billion, compared with a decrease of $5.5 billion. Rest-of-the-world profits decreased $1.4 billion, compared with an increase of $5.5 billion. In the fourth quarter, receipts increased $3.4 billion, and payments increased $4.8 billion. For the year 2019, profits from current production were unchanged, in contrast to an increase of $68.7 billion in 2018.
  • Personal income increased 0.6%, in February, the same increase as in the previous month. Disposable personal income increased 0.5% and personal consumption expenditures increased 0.2% in February. The price index for personal consumption expenditures increased 0.1% in February, while the price index excluding food and energy increased 0.2%. The price index for personal consumption expenditures increased 1.8% from February 2019. The index excluding food and energy also increased 1.8% from a year ago.
  • State personal income increased 3.0% at an annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2019, after increasing 2.8% in the third quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The percent change in personal income across all states ranged from 4.7% in Michigan to 1.1% in North Dakota. Earnings increased 3.6% nationally and was the leading contributor to growth in personal income in most states. State personal income grew on average 4.4% in the year 2019, after increasing 5.6% in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Growth of state personal income ranged from 6.1% in Colorado to 2.8% in West Virginia.
  • New orders for manufactured durable goods in February increased 1.2%, while shipments increased 0.8%.  Year-to date, new orders were up 0.4% and shipments were down 1.1% from the same period a year ago.
  • Retail inventories for February were down 0.3% from the previous month and were down 0.6% from a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Wholesale inventories for February were down 0.5% from the previous month and were down 1.0% from a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • The international trade deficit of goods was $59.9 billion in February, down $6.0 billion from January. Exports of goods were $136.5 billion in February, $0.7 billion more than January exports. Imports of goods were $196.4 billion, $5.3 billion less than January imports.
  • Sales of new single-family houses in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 765 thousand, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  This is 4.4% below the figure for January but is 14.3% above the February 2019 level.
  • On March 24th, Freddie Mac in coordination with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a nationwide relief plan for its Multifamily borrowers and residents of their apartment properties. Under the Freddie Mac program, multifamily landlords whose properties are financed with a Freddie Mac Multifamily fully performing loan can defer their loan payments for 90 days by showing hardship because of COVID-19 and by gaining lender approval. In turn, Freddie Mac is requiring landlords not to evict any tenant based solely on non-payment of rent during the forbearance period. The program can provide relief for up to 4.2 million renters across more than 27 thousand properties.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates dropped significantly. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.50% for the week ending March 26, down from last week when it averaged 3.65%. A year-ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 4.06%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.92%, down from last week when it averaged 3.06%. A year-ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.57%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 29.4% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending March 20th.
  • The University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment for March was 89.1, down from 101.0 in February. The index was 98.4 in March of 2019. The current economic conditions component was 103.7 in March, compared with 114.8 in February. The index of consumer expectations decreased to 79.7 in March, from 92.1 in February.

 

  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to dominate the news all over the globe. Governments and central banks all over the world are scrambling to alleviate the negative effects of the virus on economies and citizens. The Federal Reserve Bank took a set of measures to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and increase liquidity in the US and other countries.  The state and local governments are introducing measures and rulings to slow the spread of the virus. The federal government is in the process of introducing laws to reduce this unprecedented blow to millions of Americans. The virus seems to be here to stay for some time; and people are trying to adjust to a completely new lifestyle.
  • Advance estimates of retail and food services sales for February were down 0.5% from January but were up 4.3% from February 2019. Excluding motor vehicle & parts, sales were down 0.4% from the previous month, but were up 4.2% from a year ago. Year-to-date, retail and food services sales were up 6.5% from the same period a year ago.
  • Total manufacturing and trade sales for January were up 0.6% from the previous month and were up 2.1% from January 2019. Total business inventories were down 0.1% from the previous month but were up 1.1% from a year ago. The inventories/sales ratio was 1.38, compared with 1.40 in January of 2019.
  • Total Industrial production increased 0.6% in February, after a decrease of 0.5% in the previous month. Total Industrial production was unchanged from February 2019. The capacity utilization rate was 77.0 in February, 2.8 percentage points below the average for the 1972-2019 period, and 1.5 percentage points below the February 2019 level.
  • The U.S. current account deficit decreased by $15.6 billion to $109.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The revised third quarter deficit was $125.4 billion. The fourth quarter deficit was 2.0% of current dollar gross domestic product (GDP), down from 2.3% in the third quarter. The $15.6 billion narrowing of the current account deficit in the fourth quarter mainly reflected a reduced deficit on goods that was partly offset by an expanded deficit on secondary income.
  • Housing starts decreased 1.5% in February. The February figure of 1,599 thousand, seasonally adjusted and annualized, was 39.2% above the February 2019 figure. Building permits decreased 5.5% in February. The February figure of 1,464 thousand, seasonally adjusted and annualized, was 13.8% above the February 2019 level.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates rising. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.65% for the week ending March 19, up from last week when it averaged 3.36%. A year-ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 4.28%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.06%, up from last week when it averaged 2.77%. A year-ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.71%.
  • Mortgage applications decreased 8.4% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending March 13th.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 70 thousand to 281 thousand in the week ending March 14. This is the highest level for initial claims since September 2, 2017 when it was 299 thousand. The 4-week moving average was 232.25 thousand, an increase of 16.5 thousand from the previous week’s average. This is the highest level for this average since January 27, 2018 when it was 234.5 thousand. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (ongoing) during the week ending March 7 was 1,701 thousand, an increase of 2 thousand from the previous week’s revised level. The 4-week moving average was 1,703.25 thousand, a decrease of 7 thousand from the previous week’s revised average.
  • Unemployment rates were lower in January in 5 states and stable in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eleven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, one state had an increase, and 38 states and the District had little or no change. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 12 states in January 2020 and was essentially unchanged in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 18 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 32 states, and the District of Columbia were essentially unchanged.
  • Unemployment rates were lower in January than a year earlier in 292 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 77 areas, and unchanged in 20 areas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfarm payroll employment increased over the year in 31 metropolitan areas, decreased in one area, and was essentially unchanged in the remaining 357 areas.
  • The number of job openings was 6.983 million on the last business day of December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the month, hires and separations little changed at 5.824 million and 5.614 million, respectively.
  • Private industry employers spent an average of $34.72 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries averaged $24.36 per hour worked and accounted for 70.1% of these costs, while benefit costs averaged $10.37 and accounted for the remaining 29.9%.
  • The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.1% in February, after a 0.7% in the previous month. In the six-month period ending February 2020, the leading economic index increased 0.3% (about a 0.5% annual rate). The coincident index increased 0.3% in February, following a 0.1% increase in January. The coincident economic index rose 0.7% (about a 1.5% annual rate) for the six-month period ending February 2020.
  • The March (collected between March 2 and March 10) Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity declined. The general business conditions index was negative 21.5 in March, compared with 12.9 in February.  The prices paid decreased from 25.0 in February to 24.5 in March. The prices received decreased from 16.7 in February to 10.1 in March.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey for indicated a significant weakening in regional manufacturing activity in March. The diffusion index for current activity declined markedly from positive 36.7 in February to negative 12.7 in March, lowest level since July 2012.  The prices paid decreased from 16.4 in February to 4.8 in March. The prices received decreased from 17.1 in February to 6.8 in March.
  • The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $118.4 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding was $54.3 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, of which household debt was $16.1 trillion, nonfinancial business debt was $16.1 trillion, and total government debt was $22.1 trillion.
  • Household debt increased at an annual rate of 4.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, while nonfinancial business debt rose at an annual rate of 2.2%. Federal government debt increased 3.8% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2019, while state and local government debt expanded at an annual rate of 4.4%.
  • The import price index decreased 0.5% in February, following a 0.1% increase in the previous month. The export price index decreased 1.1% in February, following a 0.6% increase in the previous month. The import price index decreased 1.2% from February 2019 to February 2020, while export prices decreased 1.3%.
  • The producer price index for final demand (headline index) decreased 0.6% in February, following an increase of 0.5% in the previous month. The index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade decreased 0.1%, following an increase 0.4% as in the previous month. The producer price index for final demand (headline index) was up 1.3% from February 2019 to February 2020, while the index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade was up 1.4%.
  • The consumer price index (headline index) increased 0.1% in February, the same increase as in the previous month. The core index increased 0.2%, the same increase as in the previous month. The consumer price index increased 2.3% for the 12-month period ending in February, while the core index rose 2.4%.
  • Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.3% from January to February. This result stems from a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings combined with a 0.1% increase in the consumer price index for all urban consumers.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 4 thousand to 211 thousand in the week ending March 7. The 4-week moving average was 214 thousand, an increase of 1.25 thousand from the previous week’s average. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (ongoing) during the week ending February 29 was 1,722 thousand, a decrease of 11 thousand from the previous week’s revised level. The 4-week moving average was 1,727.5 thousand, an increase of 5.25 thousand from the previous week’s revised average.
  • U.S. selected services total revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019, adjusted for seasonal variation but not for price changes, was $4,127.1 billion, an increase of 1.0% from the third quarter of 2019 and up 4.6% from the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,  The second quarter to third quarter percentage change was 1.5%.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates generally moving higher. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.36% for the week ending March 12, up from last week when it averaged 3.29%. A year-ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 4.31%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.77%, down slightly from last week when it averaged 2.79%. A year-ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.76%.
  • Mortgage applications increased 55.4% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending March 6th.
  • The University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment, preliminary, for early March fell to 95.9, from 101.0 in February due to the spreading coronavirus and the steep declines in stock prices. The index was 98.4 a year ago. The Current Economic Conditions Index decreased from 114.8 in February to 112.5 in March, and the Index of Consumer Expectations decreased from 92.1 in February to 85.3 in March.
  • The Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York made changes to monthly schedule of Treasury securities operations and repurchase agreement (repo) operations because of highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak. On March 12th and March 13th, the Desk offered a total of $1. 5 trillion in three-month and one-month repo operations. It was stated that “Three-month and one-month repo operations for $500 billion will be offered on a weekly basis for the remainder of the monthly schedule.  The Desk will continue to offer at least $175 billion in daily overnight repo operations and at least $45 billion in two-week term repo operations twice per week over this period.”
  • On Sunday, March 15th, the FOMC decided to lower the target range of federal funds rate to 0 to 0.25%.  The Committee “expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.  The Committee stated that “the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States. Global financial conditions have also been significantly affected.”
  • Total non-farm payroll employment increased 273 thousand in February, the same increase as in the previous month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private-sector payrolls increased by 228 thousand in the month, while government employment increased by 45 thousand.  Notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical services, and financial activities.
  •  In February, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5%, and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 105 thousand to at 5.787 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.1 million, changed little in February and accounted for 19.2% of the unemployed.
  • The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.4% in February. The rate was 63.1% in February of 2019.
  • The average workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours, and average hourly earnings increased by 9 cents to $28.52.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings were up 3.0%.
  • Fourth quarter productivity increased 1.2% in the non-farm business sector, following a 0.3% decrease in the previous period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hourly compensation increased 2.1%, while unit labor costs increased 0.9%. From the fourth quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2019, productivity increased 1.8%, reflecting increases in output and hours worked of 2.6% and 0.8%, respectively.
  • Non-farm business sector productivity grew 1.9% in the year 2019, as output increased 2.7% and hours worked increased 0.8%. The 1.9% increase is the largest annual increase since 2010, when it increased 3.4%. The 0.8% increase in hours worked is the smallest increase in the annual series since 2010 (-0.1%). The average annual rate of nonfarm business sector productivity growth from 2007 to 201 is 1.4%, which is below the long-term rate from 1947 to 2019 of 2.1%.
  • In 2019, annual average unemployment rates decreased in 10 states, increased in 1 state, and were little changed in 39 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment-population ratios increased in 16 states, decreased in 2 states, and were little changed in 32 states and the District.
  • The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 3 thousand to 216 thousand in the week ending February 29. The 4-week moving average was 213 thousand, an increase of 3.25 thousand from the previous week’s average. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (ongoing) during the week ending February 22 was 1,729 thousand, an increase of 7 thousand from the previous week’s revised level. The 4-week moving average was 1,721.25 thousand, a decrease of 7.5 thousand from the previous week’s revised average.
  • In January international trade deficit was $45.3 billion, $3.3 billion less than the revised December figure. January exports were $208.6 billion, $0.9 billion less than December exports. January imports were $253.9 billion, $4.2 billion less than December imports. Year-over-year, the goods and services deficit decreased $8.5 billion, or 15.8%, from January 2019. Exports increased $2.3 billion or 1.1%. Imports decreased $6.2 billion or 2.4% from a year ago.
  • Construction spending in January 2018 was 1.8% above the December figure. The January figure was 6.8% above the January 2019 level. Residential construction was up 2.0% from the previous month, and nonresidential construction was up 1.6%. Private construction was up 1.5% and total public construction was up 2.6% in January.
  • The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed mortgage rates hit all-time low. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.29% for the week ending March 5, down from last week when it averaged 3.45%. A year-ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.41%. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.79%, down from last week when it averaged 2.95%. A year-ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.83%.
  • Mortgage applications increased 15.1% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending February 28th.
  • The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing survey indicated that the manufacturing sector grew in February, and the overall economy grew for the 130th consecutive month.
  • 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 121st consecutive month. Sixteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth, and two reported contraction.
  • The FED’s “Beige Book” indicated that economic activity expanded at a modest to moderate rate over the past several weeks. Consumer spending generally picked up, but growth was uneven across the nation. There were indications that the corona-virus was negatively impacting travel and tourism. Several Districts said that producers in manufacturing feared further disruptions in the coming weeks because of the corona-virus. While employment grew across most sectors, manufacturers, retailers, and transportation companies reported lower demand for labor in some Districts. Wages grew at a modest to moderate rate in most Districts. Firms reported that the tight labor market and minimum wage increases were putting upward pressure on wages. Most Districts reported modest growth in selling prices, as well as in non-labor input prices.
  • On March 3rd, the Federal Open Market Committee decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate by 1/2 percentage point, to 1 to 1‑1/4 percent. The Committee stated, “The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong. However, the corona-virus poses evolving risks to economic activity.” The Committee made the emergency rate cut considering these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals. The Committee also reiterated: “The Committee is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook and will use its tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”