August U.S. Employment

Job Gains Disappoint At +142K, U. Rate Ticks Down to 6.1%

  • The August Payroll Employment Survey showed a weaker-than-expected gain of 142,000 jobs.
  • The Unemployment Rate for August dipped slightly to 6.1 percent.
  • Average Hourly Earnings increased by 0.2 percent in August and are up 2.1 percent over the last year.

In what looks like an aberration, U.S. payroll employment increased by only 142,000 in August, well below the consensus expectation of about 215,000. Total revisions for June and July were -28,000 jobs. Today’s weak report breaks the chain of six consecutive +200K months. The weak headline jobs number was dragged down by a strike at a New England grocery store chain, resulting in a loss of 17,000 jobs for the month. Also, the weak official count of net new jobs was out of line with the ADP Employment Report, which showed that 204,000 private sector jobs were added for the month. Throw in about 11K government jobs on top of the ADP private sector gain and you total up to the 215,000 expectation. Seasonal adjustment factors can also do odd things to employment numbers this time of year. Lately, there has been a tendency for the August jobs numbers to be revised up. Other U.S. economic data have been consistent with ongoing moderate-to-strong job gains. The August unemployment rate was little changed, ticking down to 6.1 percent. The average workweek was 34.5 hours for the sixth consecutive month. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.2 percent and were up 2.1 percent over the previous year. I expect to see more wage pressure in the coming months as regional and occupational unemployment rates tighten up. The take-away from today’s jobs report is that one soft month does not establish a new trend, especially when other data is stronger. We continue to expect the Federal Reserve to announce the end of new asset purchases at their October 28/29 meeting. We look for interest rate lift-off in June 2015.

Construction employment increased by 20,000 jobs in August. Manufacturing added zero jobs. This is out of line with the August ISM Manufacturing Index which shows a strong employment sub-index for August at 58.1. Wholesale trade employment was up 6,500. Retail trade employment fell by 8,400 jobs, impacted by the above mentioned strike. Transportation and warehousing was little changed, up 1,200 jobs for the month. Employment at utilities was up by 1,600 jobs. Financial services gained 7,000 jobs in August supported by gains at insurers. Professional and business services employment increased by 47,000 jobs. Education and healthcare added 37,000 jobs. Employment in leisure and hospitality industries increased by 15,000. The government sector added 8,000 jobs in August.

Market Reaction: U.S. equity markets opened with losses. The 10-Year T-bond yield is down to 2.43 percent. NYMEX crude is down to $94.19/barrel. Natural gas futures are down to $3.82/mmbtu.

Economic Alert 090514

For a PDF version of this Comerica Economic Alert click here: Employment 09-05-14.

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August ADP Employment, Auto Sales, ISM Non-MF, UI Claims, July Trade, ECB

Late Summer U.S. Data Sizzles, Draghi Doubles Down

  • The August ADP Employment Report showed an increase of 204,000 private-sector jobs.
  • Auto Sales for August geared up to a 17.5 million unit annual rate.
  • The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index increased to 59.6 in August, indicating improving conditions.
  • Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance for the week ending August 30 gained 4,000 to hit 302,000.
  • The U.S. International Trade Gap narrowed to -$40.5 billion in July, supportive of Q3 GDP.
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced further monetary stimulus for the Eurozone.

Job creation remained solid through August, according to the ADP Employment Report. 204,000 private-sector jobs were added for the month. This would be consistent with a gain of about 215,000 in the official nonfarm payroll report for August, likely extending the streak of +200K job creation to seven consecutive months. The official BLS payroll employment numbers for August will be released tomorrow morning. We expect to see a decrease in the U.S. unemployment rate to 6.1 percent for August. Initial claims for unemployment insurance ticked up inconsequentially, by 4,000, to hit 302,000 for the week ending August 30. This is still a very good number, in line with our expectation of ongoing tightening in the U.S. labor market. Continuing claims fell by 64,000 for the week ending August 23, to hit a low 2,464,000. All those new paychecks are helping to push auto sales into very strong territory. The light-vehicle sales rate hit 17.5 million units in August, boosted by a sizeable increase in light truck sales. Strong light truck sales are, in turn, an indicator of improving overall economic conditions and for construction in particular. Sales rates of +17 million units are consistent with previous cyclical peaks. Pent-up demand from the Great Recession may support stronger than usual sales for a time, but it is reasonable to assume that we are approaching the cyclical peak for unit auto sales.

The U.S. international trade gap narrowed slightly in July to -$40.5 billion. Exports increased by $1.8 billion for the month. Imports increased by $1.6 billion. Petroleum exports were up by $1.1 billion in July. Falling prices will likely keep the nominal value of petroleum exports in check over the next couple of months. However, volumes are increasing as U.S. refineries look for new markets for that processed shale oil. Total imports in July were boosted by a $1.4 billion increase in auto imports as foreign automakers increase their inventories here in anticipation of ongoing string sales. For the first month of the third quarter, the real trade balance of goods is well below the second quarter average, implying that trade may be a solid contributor to Q3 real GDP growth. Third quarter GDP growth also got a shot in the arm from the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index for August which increased by more than expected, to 59.6. This is the highest reading since August 2005.

The sizzle on this side of the Atlantic is countered by a slump on the other side. European economic data continues to disappoint. Eurozone GDP was essentially unchanged in Q2 and inflation continues to trend lower than desirable. The European Central Bank today announced a 10-basis-point cut on short-term interest rates as well as the start of a new program of asset purchases. In October, the ECB will start purchasing asset-backed securities and euro-denominated covered bonds. Details of the new programs will be released in early October. The euro slid further against the dollar after today’s announcement by the ECB, now down to $1.30.

Market Reaction:U.S. stock markets open strong, supported by today’s domestic data. The 10-Year T-bond rate is up to 2.45 percent. NYMEX crude oil is down to $94.78/barrel. Natural gas futures are down to $3.88.

For a PDF version of this Comerica Economic Alert click here: ADP 09-04-14.

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Comerica Bank’s Florida Index Climbs in June

Comerica Bank’s Florida Economic Activity Index improved in June, increasing 3.0 percentage points to a level of 119.3. June’s index reading is 39 points, or 48 percent, above the index cyclical low of 80.4. The index averaged 114 in 2013, nine points above the average for all of 2012. May’s index reading was revised slightly up to 116.3.

“Our Florida Economic Activity Index increased again in June, indicating improving economic momentum for the Sunshine State. House prices are still firming, but the rate of increase appears to be slowing, as it is in much of the rest of the U.S. Fortunately, job growth for the state is above the national average, as it usually is during times of national economic expansion,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Consistent job growth will support ongoing improvement to both residential and commercial real estate markets.”

FL Index 0814

For a PDF version of the Florida Economic Activity Index click here: FloridaIndex_0814.

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Comerica Bank’s Arizona Index Shows Modest Growth in June

Comerica Bank’s Arizona Economic Activity Index grew in June, up 0.2 percentage points to a level of 110.3. June’s index reading is 39 points, or 55 percent, above the index cyclical low of 71.2. The index averaged 97 points for all of 2013, 10 points above the average for full-year 2012. May’s index reading was revised slightly down to 110.1.

“Our Arizona Economic Activity Index increased slightly in June, consistent with recently improving labor market metrics. Payroll jobs increased in Arizona in June and July, breaking a stall pattern that had three out of the previous four months declining. Sales tax revenues have also stalled this year, indicating weaker-than-expected consumer spending and weighing on our index,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Overall, the state economy is improving gradually. Usually, Arizona is a growth leader coming out of recessions, but this time the state as a whole is showing close to average performance.”

AZ Index 0814

For a PDF version of the Arizona Economic Activity Index click here: ArizonaIndex_0814.

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Comerica Bank’s California Index Improves in June

Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index grew in June, advancing 0.4 percentage points to a level of 113.3. June’s reading is 41 points, or 56 percent, above the index cyclical low of 72.6. The index averaged 106 points for all of 2013, five points above the average for all of 2012. May’s index reading was unchanged at 112.9.

“Our California Economic Activity Index resumed its upward track in June, consistent with steady gains in state payroll employment since February. Overall, our California Index has been mixed through 2014, declining in four out of the first six months of this year. However, as the graph below shows, the level of the index has been trending up, indicating an overall improving economic climate for California,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “We expect to see ongoing gains for the California economy through the second half of 2014.”

CA Index 0814

For a PDF version of the California Economic Activity Index click here: CaliforniaIndex_0814.

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Comerica Bank’s Texas Index Up for the Third Consecutive Month

Comerica Bank’s Texas Economic Activity Index grew 1.1 percentage points in June to a level of 111.9. June’s reading is 40 points, or 56 percent, above the index cyclical low of 71.7. The index averaged 105 points for all of 2013, three points above the average for full-year 2012. May’s index reading was unchanged at 110.8.

“Our Texas Index improved again in June, up 9 out of the last 10 months. Steady gains in our Texas Index highlight the remarkable period of economic expansion that Texas is now enjoying. Payroll employment in Texas has increased for 46 consecutive months through this July. Strong job growth is driving in-migration to Texas, which in turn drives more job growth,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Drilling rig counts eased slightly into mid-summer. Crude oil prices have given up some ground with improving global supply, some ease in geo-political tensions and downgraded expectations for the Eurozone demand.”

TX Index 0814

For a PDF version of the Texas Economic Activity Index, click here: TexasIndex_0814.

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Comerica Bank’s Michigan Index Improves Again in June

Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index increased in June, climbing 3.7 percentage points to a level of 127.8. June’s reading is 56 points, or 78 percent, above the index cyclical low of 71.9. The index averaged 125 points for all of 2013, 11 points above the index average for 2012. May’s index reading was revised slightly up to 124.1.

“Our Michigan Index kept its upward momentum in June after improving in May. Payroll job growth in Michigan increased in May, June and July, breaking out of an ominous stall pattern that extended through the end of 2013 into early 2014. National auto sales were strong through midsummer and that has spurred production increases for Michigan-based assembly plants and suppliers,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “State sales tax revenues are trending up this year, showing that improved household finances and confidence are being felt at Michigan retailers.”

MI Index 0814

For a PDF version of the Michigan Economic Activity Index click here: Michigan0814.

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Comerica Economic Weekly

U.S. economic data at mid-August was favorable. July housing starts increased by a stronger-than-expected 15.7 percent. Existing home sales for July gained 2.4 percent, to a 5.15 million unit annual rate. The Leading Economic Index increased by 0.9 percent in July. The Consumer Price Index was up a tame 0.1 percent.

Monetary policy was front and center this week as both the minutes from the July 29/30 FOMC meeting were released and central bankers from around the world converged in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the Federal Reserve’s annual retreat.

The minutes from the July FOMC meeting provide a little more clarity into the Fed’s collective approach to the unwind of extraordinary monetary policy, but some details are still murky. Last spring, FOMC chairwoman Janet Yellen promised that the Fed would release a new set of “exit principles” this year. That will help.

Reported in the minutes, the FOMC believes that they should decrease the size of their balance sheet gradually and predictably to the smallest level consistent with the efficient implementation of monetary policy. The goal is to have a portfolio that consists primarily of Treasury securities. No details of an unwinding strategy or timing were discussed. Unwinding could come passively as assets mature, or it could come actively with sales, or both.

Fed watchers were busy today scouring Janet Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole for clues about the timing of interest rate lift-off. While still being purposefully vague, Yellen did open the door to earlier interest rate lift-off, if the data supported it. She said, “if progress in the labor market continues to be more rapid than anticipated…or if inflation moves up more rapidly than anticipated…then increases in the federal funds target could come sooner than the Committee currently expects and could be more rapid thereafter.”

To convert that into a schedule you have to make four assumptions: (1) what the FOMC’s current expectation of data is, (2) what the actual data will be, (3) what the FOMC’s schedule for interest rate lift-off would be absent better-than-expected data, and (4) how much they might move the schedule up. For now we are sticking with our call for interest rate lift-off next June.

For a PDF version of the Comerica Economic Weekly, including forecast tables and the variables calendar, click here: CMAEconWeekly 08-22-14.

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Phoenix Economy Shows Signs of Moderate Growth in 2014

Phoenix year-over-year employment growth is slowing down. Area employment grew 2.8 percent in 2013, but is expected to increase by only 1.8 percent this year. The outlook for Phoenix area employment remains positive heading into 2015 as the effects of the federal spending sequestration on defense-related industries continue to fade. Also, as the overall U.S. economy continues to recover, spillover into regional tourism and retirement related industries will be a boost for the Phoenix economy.

The housing market is a major accelerator of economic growth for the region. Housing inventory is beginning to accumulate while institutional buyers see less opportunity for a good deal. Single-family housing starts declined 8.6 percent in June compared to June 2013, indicating a reluctance amongst builders to get too far in front of demand. The decrease in demand from institutional buyers, along with the increased inventory is helping Phoenix area home prices to moderate. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Phoenix area home prices slowed from 9.6 percent year-over-year growth in April to 8.1 percent in May. Sustained income growth along with loosening of credit standards and relatively low mortgage rates will strengthen the housing recovery in the region and ease the transition to a more traditional home-buyer-based demand.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council notched a win in July with the World Trade Organization ruling opposing tariffs on Chinese-manufactured solar panels. This counters the International Trade Commissions 2012 imposition of tariffs on photovoltaic cells and modules manufactured in China. GPEC opposed the 2012 tariffs due to the negative impact on Phoenix’s growing solar industry. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Arizona houses more than 330 solar companies with an associated 8,500 employees. GPEC is waiting to see whether the U.S. policy response will align with the new WTO ruling.

Phoenix 2014Q2

Click here for the complete Phoenix MSA Regional Economic Update: Phoenix 2014Q2.

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Miami Economy Continues to Strengthen

The Miami MSA labor market kept trucking along, building momentum in the first half of 2014. Miami added around 40,000 payroll jobs in the first two quarters of this year. We expect area employment to continue improving for the remainder of the year, growing by 3.0 percent for the full year 2014. This will outpace overall U.S. payroll growth, which is expected to increase by 1.8 percent. Labor force growth picked up pace as well in the first half of this year, following three negative quarters in 2013. The increased labor force participation led to an unchanged unemployment rate at 6.3 percent in 2014Q2. Labor markets are expected to tighten this year, driving the unemployment rate down to 5.8 percent by year-end.

Miami housing data has been mixed in the first half of 2014. Housing starts showed stronger growth for single-family homes, while multifamily housing starts recorded its second consecutive quarterly decline in Q2. Demand within single-family housing markets remains strong. The Miami Association of Realtors reported that single-family home sales grew 9.5 percent from a year ago in June. The improvement in single-family home sales is encouraging homeowners to put their homes on the market. This in turn is increasing the inventory of existing homes and helping to moderate home price growth in the region, down to 11.1 percent from a year ago in 2014Q2. Improving mortgage credit availability and relatively low mortgage rates are a positive for area housing markets headed into the second half of 2014.

Consumer spending continues to improve in the Miami area. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, gross sales for Miami-Dade County increased 7.0 percent from a year ago in June. The improving overall U.S. economy and stronger tourism will boost spending at Miami retailers. Sustained income growth, which is expected to increase by 5.0 percent in 2014, will also support ongoing gains in consumer activity this year.

Miami 2014Q2

Click here for the complete Miami MSA Regional Economic Update: Miami 2014Q2.

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