Free Markets, Free People

Economic statistics


Economic Statistics for 23 Mar 12

Today’s economic release schedule is pretty sparse. The only thing on tap for today is new home sales. Speaking of which, new home sales fell 1.6% in February to a lower than expected 313,000 annual rate. Prices, though, rose by 8.3%, though this is counterbalanced by a 5.3 month supply of homes, the third lowest supply amount of what I laughingly refer to as "the recovery". February sales rose in the Northeast and West but fell sharply in the South, which is the key region for this series of data.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial claims for unemployment fell by 5,000, to a lower than expected level of 348,000 for the week. The four-week average fell 1,250 to 355,000.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell slightly to -34.9. But, more people said the economy was improving than at any time in eight years.

Some previous data indicated home prices were improving. That would be good news, if it were true. But, it isn’t. The FHFA reports house prices in January were unchanged.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.7%, led by improvement in the labor market.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 21 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

A 13 basis-point rise in interest rates in the past week drove mortgage applications down -7.4%, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. The purchase index fell -1.0%, the refinance index dropped -9.3%.

Existing home sales for February fell -0.9% to a 4.59 million annual rate. Sales are up 8.8% from a year ago.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 20 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

In retail sales, Redbook reports a strong 3.6% year-on-year same store sales increase for the latest week. ICSC-Goldman Store Sales show a strong 0.9% weekly sales increase, with the year-on-year rate rising to 3.3%.

Housing starts were weaker than expected in February, coming in at a 698,000 annual rate. Permits were higher than expected at 717,000 annualized.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 19 Mar 12

The housing market index is the only statistic for the day. While the headline index is unchanged from last month’s 28, But the 6-month component is up to 36, more than double the reading of 17 back in September. On the other hand, any reading below 50 indicates recessionary conditions for the housing sector.  The trend is positive though, so there’s that.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 16 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Overall consumer prices rose sharply last month, with the CPI up 0.4%. The "core" rate, ex-food and  -energy, was up 0.1%. Energy prices jumped by 3.2% in the month.

Due to weakness in mining and utilities, Industrial production is unchanged from last month. Capacity utilization rose 0.2% to 78.7%. Despite the disapointing production figure, manufacturing rose 0.3% for the month.

The Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell 1 point to 74.3, as consumers responded to rising energy prices.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 15 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Initial jobless claims continued their decline in the latest week, down 14,000 to 351,000. The four-week moving average is steady at 355,750 which is the recovery low.

The overall Producer Price Index rose 0.4% last month. The core rate, ex-food and –energy, rose 0.2%.

While the components of the Empire State Mfg Survey are mixed, the overall index rose 20.21 this month, from 19.53 last month.

The Philadeplphia Fed survey mirrors the same mixed indicators as the NY survey, with noticeable weakness in key components, but an overall rise in the headline index to 12.5. Both surveys are showing weakness in new orders.

The Treasury International Capital report indicates strong foreign buying of US securities, leading to a net long-term flow of $101.0 billion in January.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index climbed another three points, to -33.7 in the March 11 week.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 14 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Export prices rose 0.4% in February, up 1.5% from last year. Import prices rose 0.4% for the month, up 5.5% for the year.

The Mortgage Bankers Assoc reports that overall mortgage applications fell -2.4%, with purchases up 4.4% and refinancing down -4.1%.

The nation’s 4Q 2011 current account deficit totaled $124.1 billion, up from a revised $107.6 billion in 3Q.

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Dale Franks
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Are the recent employment gains real?

Over the last several months, we’ve seen moderate gains in non-farm payroll jobs, with the rate of job creation running at about 200,000 jobs a month. That’s seems good, as does the continuing drop in initial claims for unemployment to around the 350,000 level weekly.

The thing is, how real is this job creation, in an environment where the past year showed a rate of GDP growth of 1.8%, and the most optimistic forecasts for this year indicate a 2.5% rate of GDP growth? Those rates of growth are significantly below the long-term trend rate of growth for the US economy, which is between 3% and 3,5% per year. How is employment increasing when GDP growth is so slow?

Well, the answer is, it may not be.  Take a look at the charts below, They are taken from the historical A tables of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) household survey. This is the survey where households provide employment data.

The first chart shows the number of people in the Household survey who’ve declared themselves to be employed since January of 2002.

AChart1

That does indeed indicate a moderate rate of employment growth since January of 2010. So far, so good.

The next chart, however, shows those who are employed as a percentage of the civilian, non-institutional, adult population.

AChart2

This provides a far more negative picture of employment. Essentially, the percentage of the population that is employed has crashed, and the percentage of employed was lower in 2011 than it was in 2010. As a percentage of the adult population, peak employment has declined every year since 2007.

Essentially, a additional 4% of the adult population is now jobless, compared to 2007, and that jobless percentage has been increasing, not decreasing, over the last two years, despite mild declines in the official unemployment rate.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 13 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose to 94.3, the sixth straight month of increases for the index.

Retail sales rose 1.1% in February. Less autos, sales were up 0.9%, and ex-autos and gas, sales rose 0.6%.

Business inventories rose 0.7% in January, keeping the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.27.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index rose 0.7% in February, following a drop of -1.7% in January. Even with the February increase, the PCI is indicating that the economy is still weaker than other indicators seem to show.

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports same store sales were up by 3.3% over last year. Meanwhile, ICSC-Goldman reports weekly sales rose 0.7% for the week, and were up 2.3% over last year.

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Dale Franks
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