Data Updates

Data Updates

February 2009

  • 02.27.2009
  • Real GDP
  • Real GDP was revised down by 2.5 percentage points to −6.2 percent (annualized rate) in the fourth quarter, according to the preliminary release. For context, the average revision without regard to sign from the advance to preliminary estimate is 0.5 percentage point. If the current estimate holds, it will be the sharpest quarterly decrease since 1982:Q1. Downward revisions to the component estimates were fairly widespread, though the largest adjustments came from private inventories and exports. The change in private inventories was revised down from an addition of $6.2 billion to a subtraction of $19.9 billion, accounting for 1.2 percentage points in the downward adjustment to real GDP growth. Exports were revised down to −23.6 percent from −19.8 percent in the advance estimate, pulling down growth by an additional 0.6 percentage point and posting its deepest contraction since 1971:Q4. The growth rate in personal consumption fell to −4.3 percent from −3.5 percent in the fourth quarter, subtracting an additional 0.5 percentage point from real GDP growth (−3.0 percentage point in total). On a year-over-year basis consumption is down 1.5 percent, its slowest growth rate since 1951:Q3. On the brighter side, real residential investment was revised up from −23.6 percent to −22.2 percent during the preliminary revision (adding 0.1 percentage point to growth).
  • 02.27.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • Consumer sentiment remained unchanged at an index value of 56.2 in February, according to the final report from the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers. However, the current conditions component slipped down to 65.6 from 67.1 during the revision, while the expectations component was revised up to 50.5 from 49.1. That said, consumer expectations still fell 7.3 index points during February. One-year ahead average inflation expectations were revised up from 2.0 percent to 2.3 percent in February, but this is still slightly lower than January’s 2.5 percent. Longer term (five-to-ten-year) average inflation expectations jumped up 0.5 percentage points during the revision to 3.5 percent.
  • 02.26.2009
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods fell 5.2 percent (nonannualized) in January, marking its sixth straight decline and following a downwardly adjusted 4.6 percent decrease in December. Over the past 12-months, new orders have plunged a staggering 23.4 percent. In comparison, new orders for durable goods excluding transportation decreased 2.5 percent in January, bringing its 12-month growth rate to −17.4 percent. New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft decreased 5.4 percent during the month, following a 5.8 percent decline in December. Its year-over-year growth rate fell to −18.5 percent, though still above the lows seen during the 2001 recession. Shipments of durable goods slipped down 3.7 percent in January and have fallen 9.0 percent in the last three months. Both unfilled orders and inventories contracted in January, decreasing 1.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. While the 12-month growth rate in unfilled orders has fallen to near zero (it stands at 0.9 percent currently), the longer-term trend in inventories remains somewhat elevated at 5.7 percent.
  • 02.26.2009
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales declined 10.2 percent in January, following an upwardly revised 9.5 percent decline in December. January’s decline brings sales down to an annual pace of just 309,000 units, the slowest pace since the series began in 1963. The 12-month growth rate hit a new cyclical low at −48.2 percent in January; the only lower growth rate was recorded during the 1980 recession when sales declined 50.5 percent in 12-months. The median sales price of new single-family homes in January was 13.5 percent lower than a year, the largest 12-month decline since the 1970 recession. Inventories of new homes for sale declined 3.1 percent in January to 342,000, pretty close to the average level from 1970-2000. However with the sales pace so depressed, that level of inventory represents 13.3 months of supply, 1.1 months more than in December and 1.7 months higher than the peak during a previous period (11.6 months in April 1980).
  • 02.25.2009
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales declined 4.7 percent in January effectively reversing December’s 4.7 percent increase. At 4.05 million units annually, January’s sales pace is 10,000 units less than November’s and the lowest since 1997. The median sales price of existing single-family homes decreased for the seventh straight month in January, however the 12-month growth rate in prices ticked up slightly from −14.6 percent to −13.8 percent, the first increase in four months. The number of existing single-family homes on the market for sale was unchanged in January at 3.11 million, but at January’s slower sales pace that amount of inventory represents 9.2 months of supply compared to 8.8 months in December.
  • 02.24.2009
  • Housing Price Indexes
  • The national S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index declined 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly decline in the short history of the series which began in 1987. On a year-over-year basis, home prices are now down 18.2 percent, also the largest decline on record. The monthly data was a little more encouraging as the 12-month growth rates in each both the 20-city and 10-city composite indexes were down only slightly at −18.5 percent and −19.2 percent, respectively.

    The FHFA House Price Index declined 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared to a decline of 2.6 percent in the third quarter. The four-quarter growth rate in the index declined from −3.9 percent to −4.5 percent in 2008:Q4, a new record low. The purchase-only index—which does not include data from refinancing transactions—declined 3.4 percent over the quarter yielding a four-quarter growth rate of −8.2 percent, also a record low.

  • 02.20.2009
  • CPI
  • The CPI rose at an annualized rate of 3.4 percent in January, reversing course after three consecutive monthly declines and outpacing all of its longer-term trends. The 12-month percent change stands at 0.0 percent currently, its lowest rate since August of 1995. Energy prices increased for the first time in six months, rising 22.9 percent (annualized rate) in January, though that was largely driven by an increase in motor fuel (up 85.6 percent annualized rate), as household energy prices (down −10.6 percent) continued their downtrend. The core CPI (excluding food and energy) rose 2.1 percent during the month, compared to an annualized growth rate of 0.9 percent over the three months prior. Over the past 12-months, the core CPI has risen 1.7 percent. Our measures of underlying inflation trends, the median and 16 percent trimmed-mean, increased 2.7 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively in January. The price change distribution was about as close to a “normal” distribution that we have seen in quite some time. Only 29 percent of the index exhibited price changes less than 1.0 percent, compared to 48 percent in December. On the other end of the price change distribution 47 percent of the index increase at rates exceeding 3.0 percent, much closer to the ten-year average of 44 percent than in December, when only 25 percent of the increase rose more than 3.0 percent. That said, there were a couple of odd occurrences in this month’s report. The price index for new vehicles increased 3.4 percent after five consecutive decreases. Moreover, leased car and truck prices jumped 29.5 percent in January after being relatively stable for a few months. Also, some apparel prices jumped during the month. Men’s and boy’s apparel prices jumped 20.3 percent in January, while infants’ and toddlers’ apparel prices rose 5.9 percent. These price moves should explain away some of the curious strength these categories exhibited in the retail sales report.
  • 02.19.2009
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods reversed course after its fifth consecutive decrease, rising 10.4 percent (annualized rate) in January. January’s increase was led by a 55.1 percent jump in the prices of energy goods, following a 68.3 percent decrease in December. However, the 12-month trend in the PPI is still below zero, posting −1.3 percent in January. The PPI excluding food and energy (core PPI) increased 5.0 percent during the month, compared to a 2.9 percent increase in December and a 4.2 percent gain over the last 12-months. Further back on the line of production, core intermediate goods prices continued to decline—albeit—at a slower rate, falling 12.2 percent in January. Core crude goods prices actually posted a slight increase after five consecutive monthly decreases, rising 1.1 percent during the month.
  • 02.18.2009
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production continued its free-fall in January, decreasing 19.8 percent (annualized rate), following a downwardly revised 25.0 percent drop in December. This brings its 12-month growth rate down to −10.0 percent, marking its deepest low since July 1975. January’s decrease was led by a sharp 26.5 percent (annualized rate) contraction in manufacturing output that was spread across most manufacturing categories. Decreases in the mining sector accelerated in January, as output fell 14.5 percent during the month, compared to an 11.8 percent decline in December. That said, over the past 12-months, mining output has only fallen 0.8 percent. Utilities output jumped up 38.4 percent in January, likely driven by colder than normal temperatures in much of the Midwest and Northeast.
  • 02.18.2009
  • Housing Starts
  • Single-family housing starts declined 12.2 percent in January, their third straight double digit decline. Since reaching an all-time high of 1.8 million units annually in January 2006, single-family housing starts have fallen steadily to an all-time low of 347,000 units annually, an 81.0 percent decline over a 36-month period. Over the past year single-family housing starts have declined by 56.2 percent (the worst 12-month growth rate on record) and the pace of decline has picked up in recent months. The annualized three- and six-month growth rates in single-family starts currently sit at 82.4 percent and 71.0 percent, respectively. Permits for new single-family homes declined 8.0 percent in January to a new all-time low of 335,000 units. The decline in single-family permits has largely mirrored that of single-family starts.
  • 02.18.2009
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices decreased at an annualized rate of 11.9 percent in January which, while substantial, is much less than its average of −52.8 percent over past three months. This is largely reflective of a moderation in the price decreases of imported petroleum and petroleum products, which fell 25.1 percent during the month, compared to −97.7 percent (annualized rates) in December. That moderation (albeit much less dramatic) was seen in nonpetroleum import prices as well, which decreased 9.4 percent in January, following a 12.2 percent drop in December. However, the 12-month growth rate in nonpetroleum import prices fell to −0.6 percent in January, indicating a lack of price pressures coming from the foreign sector. Export prices actually increased 6.4 percent in January, following three straight months of decreases in excess of 20 percent. January’s increase is largely reflective of out-sized price gains in the volatile food, feed, and beverages category (which increased at an annualized rate of 136 percent during the month).
  • 02.13.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment fell to 56.2 in February, down from 61.2 in January, and just above its current cyclical low of 55.3 in November. According to the survey’s director, Richard Curtin, “Confidence fell in early February as consumers came to the consensus that the economy would remain in recession throughout 2009; moreover, nearly two-thirds anticipated that the downturn would last five more years.” The decrease in sentiment was entirely due to an 8.7 point drop to an index value of 49.1 in the consumer expectations component. That said, during the 1980 recession the expectations component dipped below 45 for a couple of months. The current economic conditions component actually improved slightly during the month, rising from 66.5 in January to 67.1 in February. One-year ahead average inflation expectations slipped down to 2.0 percent in February, down from 2.5 percent in January, but slightly above a recent low of 1.7 percent in December. Median one-year-ahead expectations fell to 1.6 percent (from 2.2 percent in January), its lowest level since November 2001. Longer term (five-to-ten year) average inflation expectations decreased to 3.0 percent in February, down from 3.4 percent last month.
  • 02.12.2009
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales unexpectedly rose 1.0 percent (nonannualized) in January, surprising expectations of a 0.8 percent decrease, after posting six consecutive monthly declines. Over the past 12 months, total retail sales are still off by 9.7 percent. Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, sales increased 0.9 percent in January. Gains were fairly widespread during the month, led by sales at nonstore retailers (+2.7 percent), electronics and appliance stores (+2.6 percent), and gasoline stations (+2.6 percent). Sales at clothing and accessory stores jumped up 1.6 percent in January, following a 4.0 percent decrease in December. On the other hand, sales at home furnishings and building supply stores (both tied to housing) continued to decrease in January, falling 1.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.
  • 02.11.2009
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit decreased $1.7 billion in December following November’s record $15.6 billion dollar decline. The pullback in imports and exports continued in December, as exports fell 6.0 over the month and imports declined 5.5 percent. Over the past five months, exports have fallen a combined 20.5 percent (or $34.5 billion) while imports have fallen 24.4 percent (or $56.2 billion). December’s figures put the fourth quarter trade deficit at $138.7 billion, nearly $40 billion less than the deficit in the third quarter.
  • 02.06.2009
  • Employment Report
  • Nonfarm payrolls continued its freefall in January, shedding 598,000 (more than was expected) and bringing total losses since the start of the recession to 3.6 million jobs, with roughly half of the losses coming in the last three months. Estimates for November and December’s payrolls were revised down by a total of 66,000. Losses in January were widespread across most industries. Goods-producing employment fell by 317,000, as the manufacturing sector plummeted by 207,000 (its largest monthly decline since October 1982). Service-providing payrolls sloughed-off 279,000 in January, following a 327,000 loss in December. Retail trade employment declined by 45,100, while the financial sector saw employment decrease by 42,000 in January. Transportation and warehousing employment fell by 44,000 in January, with 25,000 in losses coming from truck transportation. Excluding a strike-related decrease of 49,000 in April 1994, this is the deepest loss to trucking payrolls on record (back to 1990) and may be indicative of further losses in retail sales and industrial production. On a positive note, education and health services payrolls continued to expand, rising 54,000 in January.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics’s annual benchmark revisions to nonfarm employment was released today. According to the BLS, “These counts are derived principally from the unemployment insurance tax records compiled by the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program.” As a result, the December 2008 employment level was 311,000 less than previously estimated.

    On the household side, the unemployment rate jumped up from 7.2 percent to 7.6 percent, as the number of unemployed workers increased by 508,000, while the civilian labor force contracted by 731,000 (its largest monthly contraction since May 1995).

  • 02.05.2009
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity (output per hour of all persons) increased at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the preliminary release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The productivity gain, however, came as hours fell by 8.4 percent (its sharpest quarterly decrease since 1975), outpacing a 5.5 percent decrease in output. Over the past year, nonfarm business sector productivity has increased 2.7 percent, though that was largely due to a 3.6 percent decrease in hours over that time period. Compensation per hour increased 5.0 percent in the fourth quarter, and after adjusting for price effects, jumped up 15.6 percent (its largest increase on record). Unit labor costs, a measure some use to detect the onset of inflationary pressures, increased 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 2.6 percent increase last quarter. Over the past four quarters, unit labor costs are just up 0.7 percent.
  • 02.05.2009
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods posted its fifth consecutive monthly decline, falling 3.9 percent (nonannualized) in December, following a decrease of 6.5 percent in November. Over the past 12 months, new orders are down 18.7 percent. New orders of nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft—a leading indicator of business investment spending—decreased 3.2 percent during the month, and are performing slightly better than the overall series on a year-over-year basis (down 12.1 percent). Shipments rebounded somewhat off of November’s record decline of 6.5 percent, but still were down 2.9 percent in December. The inventory sell-off deepened in December, as the series tumbled 1.4 percent, pulling its 12-month growth rate down from 4.9 percent to 2.6 percent in December.
  • 02.02.2009
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income decreased at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent in December, following a decline of 4.3 percent in November. Over the past 12-months, personal income has risen just 1.4 percent, its slowest growth rate since emerging from the 2001 recession. Disposable income fell 2.8 percent in December and is down 2.3 percent over the last three months. However, after adjusting for falling consumer prices (real), disposable income increased 3.3 percent in December. Although disposable income increased (in real terms) in December, real personal consumption expenditures dropped by 6.2 percent during the month, pulling its 12-month growth rate down to −1.7 percent—a 34-year low.
  • 02.02.2009
  • PCE
  • The PCE price index continued its rapid decline in December, falling 5.9 percent (annualized rate) and posting −5.5 percent for the fourth quarter of 2008, its sharpest price decrease on record. Over the past 12-months, the PCE price index has risen just 0.6 percent. This dramatic disinflation has much to do with the rapid decline in energy prices after peaking in July. However, the PCE price index excluding food and energy prices (core PCE) decreased by 0.3 percent in December, its third consecutive (albeit small) monthly decrease. The 12-month growth rate in core PCE stands at 1.7 percent.
  • 02.02.2009
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • On the heels of its fifth consecutive monthly decline, the ISM manufacturing index rose 2.7 points to an index value of 35.6 in January. While an improvement, this is still well below the threshold value of 50, and thus, is still indicative of contraction in the manufacturing sector. The improvement in January was led by a 10-point jump in new orders (rising to 33.2), and an increase in the production index from 26.3 in December to 32.1. The employment index was flat at 29.9 in January, while the inventories index continued to back down from a recent peak of 49.8 in June, falling 2.1 points to an index value of 37.5.
  • 02.02.2009
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending fell 1.4 percent in December as private construction spending declined 1.7 percent. Private residential construction spending declined by 3.2 percent over the month following a 4.1 percent drop in November. On a year over year basis private residential construction spending is down 22.9 percent, up from an all-time growth rate low of −32.2 in July. Private nonresidential construction declined for the third consecutive month, and the fifth time in six months, as it fell 0.4 percent in December. The 12-month growth rate in private nonresidential construction spending is currently at 8.9 percent, down from a high of 25.8 percent a year ago, but still above the average over the past 30 years.