Sunday, March 20, 2016

February retail sales, consumer and producer prices, industrial production, new home construction, January business inventories and JOLTS

  you had to know that after there were no major releases last week, we'd get hit with a bunch of them this week...major reports released this week included Retail Sales for February and Business Sales and Inventories for January, both released by the Census bureau, the February Consumer Price Index and the February Producer Price Index, both from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report on Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for February from the Fed, and the February report on New Residential Construction from the Census Bureau....in addition, the BLS released two monthly employment reports that normally don't coincide: the Regional and State Employment and Unemployment report for January and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), also for January.....

this week also saw the release of the first two regional Fed manufacturing indexes for March: the Empire State Manufacturing Survey from the New York Fed, which covers New York and northern New Jersey, saw their headline general business conditions index rise from -16.6 to +0.6, its first positive reading since July of last year, indicating a bottoming out of the recession in First District manufacturing, and the Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Survey, covering most of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware, which reported its broadest diffusion index of manufacturing conditions rose from -2.8 in February to +12.4 in March, its first positive reading in seven months, implying an end to the contraction in that region's manufacturing...

February Retail Sales Down 0.1% after January Sales Revised Down 0.4%

seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 0.1% in February after retail sales for January were revised more than 0.4% lower, in one of the larger revisions we've seen for this report....the Advance Retail Sales Report for February (pdf) from the Census Bureau estimated that our seasonally adjusted retail and food services sales totaled $447.3 billion, which was a decrease of 0.1 percent (±0.5%) from January's revised sales of $447.9 billion and 3.1 percent (±0.7%) above the adjusted sales of February of last year...January's seasonally adjusted sales were revised from the $449.9 billion originally reported to $448.0 billion, while December's sales, which were revised up to $449.1 billion from the originally reported $448.1 billion last month, were revised higher again, to $449,744 million with this report....estimated unadjusted sales, extrapolated from surveys of a small sampling of retailers, indicated unadjusted sales rose 2.3%, from $400,249 million in January to $409,600 in February, while they were up 6.2% from the $385,731 million of sales in February a year ago, with the caveat that this February had one more day than last year...while it's obvious that lower sales of January will reduce prior estimates of retail’s contribution to 1st quarter GDP, the revision to December sales would add about 0.02 percentage point to the previously published figure for 4th quarter GDP...

to look at February sales, we'll include below the table of monthly and yearly percentage changes in sales by business type taken from the Census pdf, which you should all be familiar with by now....the first double column below gives us the seasonally adjusted percentage change in sales for each type of retail business type from January to February in the first sub-column, and then the year over year percentage change for those businesses since last February in the 2nd column; the second pair of columns gives us the revision of last month’s January advance monthly estimates (now called "preliminary") as revised in this report, likewise for each business type, with the December to January change under "Dec 2015 revised" and the revised January 2015 to January 2016 percentage change in the last column shown...for your reference, our copy of the table from last month’s advance January estimates, before this month's large revision, is here....

February 2016 retail sales

in the second line of the above table, we see that even without the 0.2% lower sales at automobile and parts dealers, seasonally adjusted retail sales were still down by 0.1% in February, so it wasn't lower auto sales that was the drag, as it often is...on the other hand, about half way down we see that seasonally adjusted sales at gas stations of $31,048 million were 4.4% lower than they were in January, undoubtedly due to lower gasoline prices...excluding those gas station sales from the totals, retail sales would have risen a modest 0.2% in February and would have been up 4.8% on a year over year basis...still, there were some other areas of weakness in February; sales at furniture stores were off 0.5% to $8,696 million, sales at grocery stores were down by 0.3% to $50,925 million, sales at department stores were down 0.4% to $13,437 million, and nonstore (online sales) were down 0.2% to $42,090 million...on the other hand, sales at building material and garden supply dealers were up 1.6% to $29,865 million, sales at specialty shops, such as sporting goods stores and bookstores, saw their sales rise 1.2% to $7,621 million, and sales at bars and restaurants rose by 1.0% to $53,717 million...for those interested in visualizations of February's retail sales,Robert Oak's 10 graph coverage of this report at the Economic Populist includes a bar graph showing the above retail sales categories by dollar amounts, and a pie graph showing each retail sales category as a percentage of the total sales amount.

February CPI down 0.2% on Cheaper Gasoline; 0.3% Rise in Core Prices Reduces Real PCE

consumer prices for food and most goods and services were all up in February, but another big drop in energy prices dragged the overall index down....the Consumer Price Index Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that seasonally adjusted prices fell by 0.2% in February after they had been unchanged in January and fallen 0.1% in December...the unadjusted CPI-U, which was set with prices of the 1982 to 1984 period equal to 100, actually rose to 237.111 in February from 236.916 in January, which left it statistically 1.0% higher than the 234.722 index reading of last February....regionally, prices for urban consumers have risen 2.1% in the West, 0.7% in the South, 0.4% in the Midwest, and 0.7% in the Northeast over the past year, with generally greater price increases within regions in cities of more than 1,500,000 people...with lower energy prices alone responsible for the lower CPI, seasonally adjusted core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose by 0.3% for the month, with the unadjusted core index rising from 244.528 to 245.680, which is now 2.33% ahead of its year ago reading of 240.083 ...

the seasonally adjusted energy price index fell by 6.0% in February after falling by a 2.8% in both December and January, but the energy index is still just 12.5% lower than it was in February a year ago, because the 9.7% energy index drop of January 2015 is no longer included in the year over year comparison.....prices for energy commodities were 12.5% lower in February while the index for energy services saw a 0.1% increase, after decreasing by 0.7% in January....the decrease in the energy commodity index included a 13.0% drop in the price of gasoline, the largest component, while fuel oil prices fell 2.9% and prices for other fuels, including propane, kerosene and firewood, averaged a 0.2% increase…within energy services, the index for utility gas service rose by 1.0%, but utility gas was still priced 10.3% lower than a year ago, while the electricity price index fell by 0.2%, after it fell by 0.7% in January...energy commodities are now priced 20.9% below their year ago levels, with gasoline 20.7% lower priced than it was a year ago, as it was last January that the gasoline index fell 18.7% in one month, and hence the year over year comparisons going forward from there are from that lower price level...meanwhile, the energy services price index is 4.6% lower than last February, as even electricity prices have fallen 3.0% over that period..

the seasonally adjusted food price index rose 0.2% in February, after it had been unchanged in January and fell by 0.2% in December, as prices for food purchased for use at home rose 0.2% while prices for food away from home rose 0.1%, as average prices at fast food outlets rose 0.2% while average prices at full service restaurants rose 0.1% ...0.8% higher prices for fruits and vegetables led the price increase in foods at home, as fresh fruit prices rose 2.3% and dried beans, peas, and lentils prices rose 1.7%, while fresh vegetable prices pulled back 0.4% on a 6.1% drop in the price of tomatoes, and prices for both canned and frozen fruits and vegetables were also lower...in other categories of food at home, the price index for cereals and bakery products rose 0.2% as breakfast cereal prices rose 1.5% and bread other than white bread prices rose 0.6%, more than offsetting a 1.2% decrease in prices for fresh biscuits, rolls, and muffins...at the same time,  the price index for the meats, poultry, fish, and eggs group fell by 0.1% after falling 1.3% in January and 1.1% in December as prices changes within the group were broadly mixed, with fresh whole chickens up 2.2% while fresh chicken parts were down 1.3%, and with beef roasts up 2.3% while ground beef was priced 0.7% lower...likewise mixed were prices for dairy products, as the index was unchanged as fresh whole milk prices fell 0.9% while other milk prices rose 0.7%...meanwhile, the index for beverages and beverage materials was 0.6% higher as prices for frozen juices and drinks rose 2.5% and instant and freeze dried coffee prices rose 1.0% while roast coffee prices fell 0.2%... lastly, prices in the other foods at home category averaged 0.1% lower as prices for sauces and gravies were down 2.0% while prices for frozen and freeze dried preparations were marked up 1.3% and salad dressings were 1.1% higher...only two food line items have seen price changes greater than 10% over the past year; ham prices, which were down 0.7% in February, are now 10.7% lower than they were in February a year ago, while tomatoes are 10.8% higher than last year, despite the 6.1% drop this month....the itemized list for price changes in over 100 separate food items is included at the beginning of Table 2, which gives us a line item breakdown for prices of more than 200 CPI items overall...

among the seasonally adjusted core components of the CPI, which rose by 0.3% in both February and January, the composite of all commodities less food and energy commodities also rose by 0.3%, as did the composite for all services less energy services....among the commodity components, which will be used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis to adjust February retail sales for inflation in national accounts data, the index for household furnishings and supplies fell by 0.2% on a 2.1% decrease in prices for major appliances, a 1.2% decrease in prices for bedroom furniture and a 2.4% decrease in prices for other furniture, which were were partially offset by a 1.0% increase in prices for other appliances....apparel prices were up 1.6% on a 4.0% increase in prices for men's shirts and sweaters, a 3.5% increase in prices for men's footwear, a 2.7% increase in prices for women's outerwear, an 8.5% increase in prices for watches, and a 3.2% increase in prices for jewelry, which were only partially offset by 2.6% lower prices for boys apparel and a 1.9% decrease in prices for men's suits, sport coats, and outerwear...at the same time, prices for transportation commodities other than fuel were up 0.2%, as prices for both new cars and trucks and used cars and trucks were up 0.2% while prices for tires fell 0.1%....in addition, prices for medical care commodities were up 0.6% on 1.1% higher drug prices, while the recreational commodities index was 0.5% lower as prices for toys fell 1.8%, prices for photographic equipment fell 1.2% and prices for TVs were 1.4% lower...likewise, the education and communication commodities index was 0.7% lower on a 1.3% decrease in prices for personal computers and an 0.8% decrease in prices for college textbooks, while lastly the separate index for alcoholic beverages rose 0.2%, and the index for other goods rose 0.3%...

within services, the price index for shelter rose 0.3% on a 0.3% increase in rents, a 0.3% increase in owner's equivalent rent and a 0.9% increase in costs for lodging away from home, while costs for household operations rose 0.5% on a 3.1% increase in moving, storage, and freight expenses....medical care services rose 0.5% on a 1.3% increase in health insurance, a 0.9% increase in inpatient hospital services, and an 0.8% increase in dental services, while transportation services index rose 0.2% on a 3.0% increase in car and truck rentals and a 0.8% increase in intercity train fares which were partially offset by an 0.8% decrease in ship fares...meanwhile, the recreation services index rose 0.5% as club dues and fees for participant sports and group exercises rose 0.9% and cable and satellite television and radio services rose 0.8%, while education and communication services were 0.1% lower on a 1.0% decrease in prices for wireless telephone services and 0.8% lower delivery services which were partially offset by 1.5% higher technical and business school tuition and fees......lastly, other personal services were up 0.1% on a 0.6% increase in checking account and other bank services....among core prices, a 12.3% increase in moving and storage expenses was the only line item with a year over year increase greater than 10%, while only telephones, which were priced 16.2% lower, and televisions, which are now 15.0% cheaper, saw their prices drop by more than 10% over the past year...

with this release, we can now attempt to estimate the economic impact of the retail sales report we covered earlier...for the most accurate estimate, and the way the BEA will be figuring 1st quarter GDP at the end of April, we would have to take each type of retail sales and adjust it with the appropriate change in price to determine real sales; for instance, February's clothing store sales, which rose by 0.9% in dollars, should be adjusted with the price index for apparel, which was up by 1.6%, to show us that real retail sales of clothing were actually down 0.7% in February...then, to get a GDP relevant quarterly change, we'd have to compare such adjusted real clothing sales of January and February with real clothing consumption for the months of October, November and December, and then repeat that process for each other type of retailer, obviously quite a tedious task to undertake manually...the short cut we usually take to get a ballpark estimate of real sales is to apply the composite price index of all commodities less food and energy commodities, which was up 0.3%, to retail sales less grocery, gas station, and restaurant sales, which accounts for nearly 70% of the aggregate sales...while those sales were up more than 0.1% in January, their price index was up 0.3%, so real retail sales excluding food and energy sales were down by nearly 0.2%...then, for the rest of the retail aggregate, we find sales at grocery stores were down 0.3%, while prices for food at home were up 0.2%, suggesting a real decrease of around 0.5% in the quantity of food purchased in February....next, sales at bars and restaurants were up 1.0% in dollars, but those dollars bought 0.2% less, so real sales at bars and restaurants were only up 0.8%...and while gas station sales were down 4.4%, gasoline prices were down 13.0%, suggesting a solid real increase in the amount of gasoline sold, with the caveat that gas stations sell more than gasoline, and we don't have the details on that...weighing the food and energy components at roughly 30% of total retail sales, we can estimate that real retail sales in February were down almost 0.1% from January…

however, that January data is further complicated by the 0.43% downward revision to January retail sales...Table 7 of the January income and outlays report (pdf) showed that real personal consumption expenditures of goods, which excludes sales at bars and restaurants from the goods sales reported by the retail sales report, were originally reported to be up 0.7% in January, after falling 0.2% in December, rising 0.8% in November, and falling 0.2% in October...including the revised 1.1% decrease in January sales at bars and restaurants and reducing that by the revised 0.4% decrease in other January retail sales would likely revise the aggregate increase in real January PCE to something on the order of 0.1% from December, which will now probably be revised to down 0.1% from November...that means real January sales would in turn be virtually unchanged from real November sales but 0.8% higher than real October sales...averaging +0.1, 0.0, and +0.8, then suggests real January sales were ~0.3% higher than those of the 4th quarter, while February real sales were 0.1% lower than January's...that means that so far in the 1st quarter, real personal consumption expenditures for goods is running at a rate a bit more than 0.2% greater than those of the 4th quarter, such that their contribution to first quarter GDP growth will be on the order of just 0.04 percentage points..

Wholesale Prices 0.6% Lower in February, Margins of Service Providers Unchanged

the seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand decreased by 0.2% in February as prices for finished wholesale goods fell by 0.6%, while margins of final services providers were essentially unchanged...this followed a January report that showed the overall PPI had increased 0.1%, with prices for finished goods down 0.7% while final demand for services was up 0.5%....producer prices are now virtually unchanged from a year ago, and 0.6% lower than two years ago, as the producer price index was down 0.6% over the span from February 2014 to February 2015, following the large crash of oil prices at the beginning of last year...

as we noted, the index for final demand for goods, aka 'finished goods', fell by 0.6% in February after falling by 0.7% in both January and in December, as the index for wholesale energy prices fell 3.4% on a 15.1% drop in wholesale prices for gasoline that was partially offset by a 37.9% increase in wholesale prices for home heating oil, which had oddly dropped by 41.0% in January, as seasonal kicked in before prices did...at the same time, the price index for wholesale foods was 0.3% lower as a 19.0% drop in wholesale price index for fresh and dried vegetables was offset by a 28.9% increase in wholesale prices of eggs for fresh use...excluding food and energy, the index for final demand for core wholesale goods rose by 0.1% in February, as a 1.7% drop in wholesale prices for pharmaceutical preparations and a 0.9% drop in price for printing equipment were offset by a 1.3% increase in wholesale prices for paper industries machinery and a 1.2% increase in wholesale prices for soaps and detergents..

meanwhile, the index for final demand for services was unchanged in February after rising by 0.5% in January, as the index for final demand for trade services fell 0.4%, the index for final demand for transportation and warehousing services fell 0.7%, while the core services index for final demand for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing services was 0.3% higher....noteworthy among trade services, seasonally adjusted margins for fuels and lubricants retailers were 11.6% lower and margins for appliance retailers fell 5.8%, while margins for TV, video, and photographic equipment and supplies retailers were 2.7% higher after falling 10.1% in January and 27.4% in December...among transportation and warehousing services, passenger airlines saw their margins decrease 0.9% as did freight truckers, while freight airline margins rose 1.2%...in the core final demand services index, margins for securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice, and related services rose 4.8% after rising 11.8% in January and 9.2% in December...

this report also showed the price index for processed goods for intermediate demand fell by 0.7% after a 1.2% decrease in January, as intermediate processed goods prices have now been down 17 out of the last 19 months and are 5.6% lower than in January a year ago.... the price index for processed foods and feeds rose 0.1% in the first increase by any intermediate goods index in seven months, while prices for intermediate energy goods were 2.9% lower and the price index for processed goods for intermediate demand less food and energy was down 0.4%...meanwhile, the price index for intermediate unprocessed goods was down 2.1% in February after falling 0.7% in January, 3.4% in December and 4.9% in November, with the index for crude energy goods down 3.2%, the index for unprocessed foodstuffs and feedstuffs down 2.4%, while producer prices for raw materials other than food and energy materials was up 0.3% in its first increase in eight months... this raw materials index remains 16.8% lower than it was a year ago, as most commodity prices remain near their lows...

lastly, the price index for services for intermediate demand was up 0.3% in February after it rose 1.1% in January, as a 0.2% decrease in the index for transportation and warehousing services for intermediate demand was offset by a 0.4% increase in the the core price index for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing for intermediate demand, while the index for trade services for intermediate demand was unchanged...driving the core services for intermediate demand index higher were increases in the index for business loans, which rose 1.1%, while the indexes for intermediate securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice; co-employment staffing services, legal services; paper and plastics products wholesaling; and the Postal Service were also higher...the decrease in the index for transportation and warehousing services for intermediate demand was precipitated by a 0.9% decrease in the intermediate demand index for truck transportation of freight...over the 12 months ended in February, the year over year price index for services for intermediate demand, which has never turned negative, is now 1.9% higher than it was a year ago...  

January Business Inventories up 0.1%; Real Growth at a Pace Greater than 4th Quarter

following the release of the retail sales report, the Census Bureau released the composite Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales report for January (pdf), which incorporates the revised January retail data and previously published wholesale and factory data to give us a complete picture of the business contribution to the economy for that month...according to the Census Bureau, total manufacturer's and trade sales were estimated to be valued at a seasonally adjusted $1,296.2 billion in December, down 0.4 percent (±0.3%) from December's revised sales, and down 1.1 percent (±0.5%) from January sales of a year earlier...note that total December sales were also revised down by less than 0.1%, from $1,302.3  billion to $1,302.0 billion....manufacturer's sales rose by 0.4% from December to $468,386 million in January, while retail trade sales, which exclude restaurant & bar sales from the revised January retail sales we reported earlier, fell 0.3% to $394,759 million, and wholesale sales fell 1.3% to $433,093 million...

meanwhile, total manufacturer's and trade inventories, a major component of GDP, were estimated to be valued at a seasonally adjusted $1,812.3 billion at the end of January, up 0.1 percent (±0.2%)* from December and 1.8 percent (±0.5%) higher than in January a year earlier...the value of end of December inventories was revised down by 0.1%, from the $1,813.1 billion reported last month to $1,811,272 million with this report...seasonally adjusted inventories of manufacturers were estimated to be valued at $637,472 million, 0.4% lower than in December, inventories of retailers were valued at $590,544 million, 0.3% greater than December, while inventories of wholesalers were estimated to be valued at $584,249 million at the end of January, also up 0.3% from December...

before the change to inventories are included in GDP data, they must first be adjusted any changes in price to determine the real change in inventories...two weeks ago we reviewed factory inventories as compared to BEA estimates and judged that they will likely show a real January increase on the order of 0.3%...looking at the wholesale component of business inventories, which were released last week, we judged that their real change in January had already nearly doubled that of the 4th quarter, to the extent that they would already add 0.04 basis points to 1st quarter GDP...the retail component of January business inventories, released with this week's retail sales report for February, would be adjusted for inflation with the producer price indices for finished goods, which was down 0.7% on the aggregate in January...that suggests an increase in real retail inventories on the order of 1.0%, again greater than the 4th quarter pace, and thus also adding incrementally to 1st quarter GDP growth...

Industrial Production Down 0.5% in February on Warm Weather and Less Drilling

industrial production was weaker in February after the previously published increase for January was revised lower, following a cumulative upward revision to the previously published decreases of October, November and December....the Fed's G17 release on Industrial production and Capacity Utilization indicated that industrial production fell by 0.5% in February after rising by a revised  0.8% in January and falling by a revised 0.5% in December and a revised 0.7% November...the year over year decrease improved, however from 1.7% below its year ago level last month to just 1.0% below last February in this report...the industrial production index, with the benchmark now set for average 2012 production to equal to 100.0, fell to 106.3 in February from 106.9 in January, which was originally reported at 106.8...at the same time, the December reading for the index was revised up from 105.9 to 106.0, the November index was revised down from 106.6 to 106.5, and the October index was revised down from 107.4 to 107.3...to the extent that this report plays into GDP, the changes to October, November and December industrial production might incrementally decrease the 4th quarter's growth rate, while the average of the January and February index is now exactly equal to the average of the prior three months, suggesting no net change to the 1st quarter GDP components that this index influences...

the manufacturing index, which accounts for more than 75% of the total IP index, increased by 0.2, from 106.2 to 106.4 in February, after the index for December was revised down from 105.7 to 105.5 and the manufacturing index for October was revised down from 106.2 to 106.1, while the index for November was left unchanged at 105.9...as a result of those small changes, combined with a weak reading last January, the year over year increase in the manufacturing index has now increased to 1.6% from last month's 1.2% and from December's 0.8% YoY increase... meanwhile, the mining index, which includes oil and gas well drilling, fell to 108.1 in February from 109.7 in January, which was originally published as 110.1...the mining index has now averaged a 1.3% monthly decrease over the last 6 months and is now 9.9% lower than it was a year ago....finally, the utility index, which often fluctuates due to above or below normal temperatures, fell 4.0%, from an upwardly revised 102.3 in January to 98.2 in February, as temperatures across most of the US were much above normal, reducing the need for heating...with the utility index already depressed by a warmer than normal winter, it's now 9.3% below the level of last February, when record cold temperatures in the population centers of the Midwest and Northeast increased demand for heating...

this report also gives us capacity utilization figures, which are expressed as the percentage of our plant and equipment that was in use during the month, and which saw total capacity utilization fall from an unrevised 77.1% in January to 76.7% in February...seasonally adjusted capacity utilization for all manufacturing industries was unchanged at 76.1% in February after manufacturing capacity utilization for December was revised down 0.1% to 75.7%...utilization of NAICS durable goods production facilities rose 0.1% to 75.7% in February after January's durable goods capacity utilization was revised 0.1% lower, while capacity utilization for non-durables fell from an upwardly revised 78.1% in January to 78.0% in February....capacity utilization for mining fell to 77.5% in February, from 78.5% in January, which was originally published as 78.8%, while utilities were operating at 74.8% of capacity during February, down from the revised 78.0% of capacity during January...for more details on capacity utilization by type of manufacturer, see Table 7: Capacity Utilization: Manufacturing, Mining, and Utilities, which shows the historical capacity utilization figures for a dozen types of durable goods manufacturers, 8 classifications of non-durable manufacturers, mining, utilities, and capacity utilization for a handful of other special categories.... 

Housing Starts Ahead of Last Year's Pace; February Permits Down 3.1%

the report on New Residential Construction (pdf) for February from the Census Bureau estimated that the widely watched count of new housing units started was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,178,000, which was 5.2 percent (±16.9%) above the revised January estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,120,000 housing units started, and was 30.9 percent (±16.3%) above last February's rate of 900,000 housing starts a year...the asterisk indicates that the Census does not have sufficient data to determine whether housing starts rose or fell over the past month, with the figure in parenthesis the most likely range of the change indicated; in other words, February housing starts could have been down 11.7% or up as much as 22.1% from those of January, with even larger revisions subsequently possible...in this report, the annual rate for January housing starts was revised from the 1,099,000 reported last month to 1,120,000, while December starts, which were first reported at a 1,149,000 annual rate, were revised from last month's initial revised figure of 1,143,000 annually up to 1,157,000 annually with this report....

those annual rates of starts indicated by the annualized headline change were extrapolated from a survey of a small percentage of permit offices visited by Census field agents, which estimated that 73,600 housing units were started in January, up from the 74,300 units started in January...of those housing units started in February, an estimated 56,200 were single family homes and 23,900 were units in structures with more than 5 units, up from 49,700 single family starts and 23,100 units started in structures with more than 5 units in January....the unadjusted estimates also show that the housing start increases were concentrated in the South, where starts rose from 40,400 to 46,600, and in the West, where starts rose from 17,000 to 21,600, while starts in the Northeast fell from 9,700 in January to 4,000 in February, a statistically significant change despite the ±54.4% margin of error on that region's data..

the monthly data on new building permits, with a smaller margin of error, are probably a better monthly indicator of new housing construction trends than the volatile and often revised starts data...in February, Census estimated new building permits were being issued for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,167,000 housing units, which was 3.1 percent (±0.8%) below the revised January rate of 1,204,000 permits annually, but 6.3 percent (±2.0%) above the rate of permit issuance in February a year earlier...the annual rate for housing permits issued in January was revised from 1,202,000 to 1,204,000....again, these annual estimates for new permits reported here were extrapolated from the unadjusted estimates, which showed permits for 83,800 housing units were issued in February, actually up from the estimated 74,800 new permits issued in January, with permits in the Northeast up from 5,000 to 7,500....the February permits included 52,800 permits for single family homes, up from 45,700 single family permits in January, and 28,500 permits for housing units in apartment buildings with 5 or more units, up from 27,000 such multifamily permits a month earlier...

January Job Openings, Hiring, Layoffs, and Job Quitting, All Down

the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for January from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that seasonally adjusted job openings rose by 260,000, from 5,281,000 in December to 5,541,000 in January, after December's job openings were revised down, from 5,607,000 to 5,281,000, in a major revision to all the data from this release going back to December 2000...January jobs openings were still 11.4% higher than the 4,972,000 job openings reported in January a year ago, as the job opening ratio expressed as a percentage of the employed rose to 3.7% in January from 3.6% in December and from 3.4% a year ago...the greatest increases in job openings were in the broad-professional and business services category and in retail, while openings in private educational services decreased by 40,000 to 53,000 (see table 1 for more details)...like most BLS releases, the press release for report is easy to understand and also refers us to the associated table for the data cited, linked at the end of the release...

the JOLTS release also reports on labor turnover, which consists of hires and job separations, which in turn is further divided into layoffs and discharges, those who quit, and 'other separations', which includes retirements and deaths....in January, seasonally adjusted new hires totaled 5,029,000, down 372,000 from the revised 5,401,000 who were hired or rehired in December, as the hiring rate as a percentage of all employed fell from 3.8% to 3.5%, which was also down from the hiring rate of 3.6% in January a year earlier (details of hiring by industry since September are in table 2)....meanwhile, total separations also fell, by 225,000, from 5,128,000 in November to 4,903,000 in January, as the separations rate as a percentage of the employed fell from 3.6% to 3.4%, which was also down from the separations rate of 3.5% a year ago (see table 3)...subtracting the 4,903,000 total separations from the total hires of 5,029,000 would imply an increase of 126,000 jobs in January, somewhat less than the revised payroll job increase of 172,000 for January reported by the February establishment survey of two weeks ago, but still not an unusual difference and within the expected +/-115,000 margin of error in these incomplete samplings...

breaking down the seasonally adjusted job separations, the BLS finds that 2,804,000 of us voluntarily quit their jobs in January, down 284,000 from the revised 3,088,000 who quit their jobs in December, while the quits rate, widely watched as an indicator of worker confidence, fell from 2.2% to 2.0% of total employment (see details in table 4)....in addition to those who quit, another 1,663,000 were either laid off, fired or otherwise discharged in January, down 9,000 from the revised 1,672,000 who were discharged in December, which left the discharges rate unchanged at 1.2% of all those who were employed during the month, same as a year earlier....meanwhile, other separations, which includes retirements and deaths, were at 437,000 in January, up from 368,000 in December, for an 'other separations' rate of 0.3%, which was unchanged....both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted details by industry and by region on hires and job separations, and on job quits and discharges can be accessed using the links to tables at the bottom of the press release...


(the above is the synopsis that accompanied my regular sunday morning links emailing, which in turn was mostly selected from my blog post for this week on the global glass onion…if you’d be interested in receiving my weekly emailing of selected links, most from the aforementioned GGO posts, contact me…)

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