With the end of the federal government shutdown on October 16, a backlog of economic data is flowing irregularly from federal agencies. It will take until December to get back onto a normal data schedule.
Employment data for September was released on October 22. Payrolls increased by a moderate 148,000 for the month. August payroll gains were revised up to a solid 193,000, but July was weak at 89,000, resulting in an uninspired third quarter average of 143,333 payroll jobs per month. The unemployment rate dipped to 7.2 percent in September, assisted by weak labor force growth. The ongoing decline in the unemployment rate is as much a product of moderate job growth as it is of weaker than expected labor force growth. The September labor force was just 0.3 percent larger than it was a year earlier.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending October 19 declined by 12,000 to hit 350,000. UI claims have been an unreliable labor market indicator lately. The series has been corrupted by technical problems in California. It may take a few more weeks of data before we see a stable series.
U.S. international trade data for August was released on October 24. The trade gap between exports and imports widened slightly in August to -$38.8 billion. Exports of goods dipped from early summer, while imports of goods increased. The price adjusted balance of trade in July and August suggests that net trade will be a slight positive for Q3 real GDP.
August construction spending increased by 0.6 percent as private residential construction was up 1.2 percent. Over the previous year, private residential construction spending was up 18.7 percent. Private nonresidential was up 4.3 percent. Total publically funded construction spending was down 1.8 percent for the year.
New orders for durable goods increased by 3.7 percent in September, boosted by ever-volatile commercial aircraft orders. Sans the flying people cans, new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft dipped by 1.1 percent in September.
The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey for October showed that manufacturing conditions improved there. The same for the Richmond Fed’s district, which stretches from Maryland to South Carolina.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency released its inaugural Drilling Productivity Report for October. It shows increasing oil and gas production across most tight shale regions.
The FOMC will likely take a pass at its upcoming October 29/30 meeting and not reduce its program of asset purchases. The next opportunity for taper-lite will be at the FOMC’s December 17/18 meeting.
For a PDF version of the Comerica Economic Weekly, including forecast tables and the variables calendar, click here: CMAEconWeekly102513.