Data Updates

Data Updates

March 2010

  • 03.31.2010
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods increased 0.6 percent (nonannualized) in February, following a relatively large 2.5 percent jump in January, its sixth consecutive gain. Unlike January’s increase, which was mostly due to a spike-up in aircraft orders, new orders excluding transportation rose 0.7 percent in February, and are now up 9.2 percent over the past year. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft rebounded from a sharp 4.4 percent decrease in January, rising 2.0 percent in February. That said, its recent trend has been slowing. The 3-month annualized growth rate in nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, has slipped from a recent peak of 21.3 percent in November to 1.9 percent as of February, well below its year-over-year growth rate of 8.2 percent. Manufacturers’ shipments fell 0.1 percent during the month (its first decline in six months), while inventories rose 0.5 percent. This lead to the first uptick in the I/S ratio for manufactured goods since May 2009, which increased from 1.28 months to 1.29 months in February.
  • 03.30.2010
  • Housing Price Indicators
  • The S&P/Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city Home Price Indexes both rose an eighth straight month in January and performed exactly as they had in December, showing respective increases of 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent. Continual increases in home prices recently have surprised expectations on the upside, particularly when set against a backdrop of poor home sales reports. The 12-month growth rates for both series improved in January and currently stand at 0.0 percent for the 10-city index and −0.7 percent for the 20-city index, up from lows of at least −19.0 percent in January 2009.

    Meanwhile, the monthly FHFA Purchase-Only House Price Index dipped 0.6 percent in January following a 2.0 percent decline in December. The FHFA index offers much broader geographic coverage than either of the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes. Although its steady freefall was tamed toward the end of 2008, the monthly index has continued on a slower but still downward path. Year-over-year growth was improving up until last November when it went briefly positive but has since turned south again, coming in at −3.4 percent for January.

  • 03.29.2010
  • Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE)
  • The PCE price index was flat in February, following a 2.0 percent (annualized rate) increase in January. Over the past year, PCE prices are up 1.8 percent. Excluding food and energy prices (the core PCE), the index was also virtually flat, ticking up at an annualized rate of just 0.4 percent during the month, nearly matching its relatively subdued near-term trend (3-month growth rate) of 0.5 percent. The 12-month growth rate in the core PCE slipped down 0.2 percentage point during February and now stands at 1.3 percent.
  • 03.29.2010
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income was unchanged in February, following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent gain in January. The 12-month growth rate in personal income is now up 2.0 percent, a recent high, though still well short of the roughly 5.0 percent growth rate seen in the months before the recession. Wage and salary growth and disposable income were also flat in February. As disposable income growth has stalled recently, the savings rate has continued to edge away from its May 2009 peak of 6.4 percent, slipping down to 3.1 percent in February. Nominal personal consumption expenditures rose for the fifth consecutive month, increasing 0.3 percent in February. After adjusting for price effects, real consumption was still up 0.3 percent during the month, and it is up 1.6 percent over the last year. The overall consumption gain came on a strong (0.9 percent) jump in purchases for nondurables and a modest increase in spending on services. Consumption of durables slipped down 0.2 percent in February, following a 0.7 percent decrease in January, though it is still up 3.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • 03.26.2010
  • Real GDP: Third Estimate for Fourth Quarter 2009
  • Real GDP was revised down from 5.9 percent (annualized rate) to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter, according the third estimate from the BEA. While the downward adjustment wasn't expected by most analysts (Bloomberg’s forecast range was 5.7 percent to 6.0 percent), it is just 0.1 percentage point below the initial estimate of 5.7 percent for the fourth quarter. Real GDP rose 0.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009, marking the first year-over-year increase in more than one year. The overall revision from the second to the third estimate was due to minor downward revisions to consumption, investment in structures, and inventories. Changes in private inventories were trimmed slightly, resulting in a 0.1 percentage point decrease in their contribution to output growth, which still stands at almost 4 percent. Consumption was revised down again to 1.6 percent in the third estimate and is now 0.4 percentage point below the advanced estimate for the fourth quarter. The negative adjustment to business fixed investment during the revision came as investment in structures fell further into the red, going from −13.9 percent to −18.1 percent. The equipment and software component actually nudged a little higher (from 18.2 percent to 19.0 percent) in the fourth quarter.
  • 03.26.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment was revised up 1.1 points in late March to an index value unchanged from February’s reading of 73.6. Though this is still well below the levels seen in the years leading up to the start of the recession, it is a vast improvement from the cyclical low of 55.3 reached in November 2008. The current conditions component of the release was revised up 1.6 points to 82.4, its highest level since March 2008. The consumer expectations component was also revised up, by 0.7 point, though it is still slightly lower than February’s reading. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations were revised down from 3.5 percent to 3.4 percent in March, down 0.2 percentage point (pp) from February. The longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations remain at 3.1 percent, 0.2 pp lower than February’s reading.
  • 03.24.2010
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods rose 0.5 percent (nonannualized) in February, following a relatively strong 3.9 percent jump-up in January. However, January’s surge was mostly due to a spike in aircraft orders. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.9 percent in February, rebounding from a 0.6 percent decline in January. Its 3-month annualized growth rate is still up 9.2 percent and is outpacing its longer-term (12-month) trend of 7.9 percent. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft increased 1.1 percent in February, regaining some of January’s 3.9 percent drop. While its 12-month growth rate remained a solid 7.9 percent, over the past three months the series is up a mere 0.5 percent (annualized rate), hinting at some upcoming softness in investment goods. Shipments of durable goods decreased for the second consecutive month, slipping down 0.6 percent (nonannualized) in February. On the other hand, manufacturers added 0.3 percent to inventories in February, following a 0.1 percent gain in January.
  • 03.24.2010
  • New Home Sales
  • The pace of new single-family home sales weakened further in February, declining 2.2 percent to a 47-year low of 308,000 annual units. The drop was pervasive in all regions of the U.S. except the West, which saw a 21 percent increase. January’s report was revised upward, from an 11.2 percent drop in sales to a still-weak 8.7 percent drop. Year-over-year growth slipped from −4.3 percent to −13.0 percent in February, and since recent months have seen nearly solid declines, shorter-term growth looks even shabbier, at −24.5 percent for the past six months. The estimate of new single-family homes for sale in February came in at 236,000, representing a 1.3 percent increase over January and 9.2 months− supply at the current sales rate. After peaking last January at a whopping 12.4 months, the months− supply relaxed slowly to 7.3 in October but has been on-the-rise again ever since.
  • 03.23.2010
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales slipped 1.4 percent in February following larger declines of 16.6 percent in December and 6.9 percent in January. As a result, the annual sales pace sagged further to 4.37 million units, its lowest pace since last June, and the 12-month growth rate slowed from 8.6 percent to 4.3 percent. While 12-month growth has been positive for nine consecutive months, the series has slowed tremendously since reaching its recent peak in November of 41.3 percent. Inventory of existing single-family homes rose to 2.99 million units, representing an 8.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 7.6-month supply in January. The median home price was $164,300 in February, down 2.1 percent from February 2009. Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, comments that “although (total) sales have been higher than year-ago levels for eight straight months and home prices are much more stable compared to the past few years, the housing recovery is fragile at the moment. If we see a surge in home buying comparable to last fall in the months leading up to the original tax credit deadline, then enough inventory should be absorbed to ensure a broad home price stabilization.”
  • 03.19.2010
  • Fourth District Employment Conditions
  • The Fourth District’s unemployment rate decreased 0.5 percentage point to 10.2 percent for the month of January. The decline in the unemployment rate is attributed to an increase of the number of people employed (0.8 percent), a decrease in the number of people unemployed (−3.6 percent) and an increase in the labor force (1.0 percent).

    The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties ranges from 7.1 percent (Greene County, Pennsylvanis) to 21.2 percent (Magoffin County, Kentucky), with the median county unemployment rate at 11.3 percent. These county-level patterns are reflected in state-wide unemployment rates as Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 10.8 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 8.8 percent and West Virginia’s 9.3 percent.

  • 03.18.2010
  • CPI
  • The CPI was flat (0.0 percent annualized rate) during the month, as energy prices slipped down 6.3 percent in February, following a 39 percent jump in January. The core CPI edged up 0.6 percent (annualized rate) in February, and has only ticked up 0.1 percent over the past three months, pulling its 12-month growth rate down from 1.6 percent in January to 1.3 percent. Measures of underlying inflation trends produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland—the median and 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI—were mixed in February. The median CPI actually posted its first annualized monthly decrease since December 1982, ticking down 0.3 percent in February. The 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI increased a slight 0.5 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the trim is up 1.1 percent, while the median CPI has risen just 0.8 percent (a series low). Softness was evident in the price change distribution, as a majority of the consumers’ marketbasket (51 percent) posted outright price declines in February. Categories of note in the lower tail: apparel, household furnishings and operations, personal care services, recreation, and some of the regional OER indexes. On the other end of the distribution, a little over 23 percent of the index (by expenditure weight) rose at rates exceeding 3 percent, with 21 percent rising at rates greater than 5 percent. In this tail, large and continued increases in used auto prices and medical care commodities is helping to hold up the overall index.
  • 03.17.2010
  • PPI
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods slipped down 6.5 percent (annualized rate) in February, reversing course after four consecutive increases. Much of the pattern in the overall PPI in recent months has been driven by swings in energy prices, which spiked up 82.5 percent in January only to fall 29.6 percent in February. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the “core” PPI was virtually unchanged in February, rising just 0.7 percent. Over the past 3 months, the core PPI is up 1.6 percent, slightly higher than its 12-month growth rate of 1.0 percent. Further back on the line of production, pricing pressure was mixed as core intermediate goods prices jumped up 11.4 percent, while core crude goods prices decreased 6.9 percent.
  • 03.16.2010
  • Housing Starts
  • Single-family housing starts were virtually unchanged in February, dropping a slight 0.6 percent. After hitting rock-bottom back in February 2009, the series climbed solidly through July and has been charting a relatively level path thereafter. Although the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of single-family starts has risen nearly 40 percent from the record low last February, it still sits below any recession low prior to the current episode. The more volatile total starts series, meanwhile, posted a larger (but not atypical) drop of 5.9 percent in February following a 6.6 percent gain in January. Permits for single-family homes, like starts, were little changed over the month, dropping just 0.2 percent and tracking a stable but depressed course around roughly 500,000 annual units. While permits are 32.0 percent above the year-ago pace, they are still incredibly low compared to peak rates in 2005 exceeding 1.7 million units.
  • 03.16.2010
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices fell 0.3 percent (nonannualized) in February, following a 1.3 percent rise in January, pulling the 12-month growth rate down slightly to 11.2 percent. The series’ first decline in seven months is mainly due to a 2.2 percent drop in petroleum prices, though a 0.8 percent decline in industrial supplies and materials prices also contributed to the drop. Nonpetroleum import prices inched up 0.2 percent, and are up 2.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Export prices declined 0.5 percent in January, as agricultural commodities prices fell 3.8 percent to their lowest level since April. The 12-month growth rate of export prices slipped from 3.3 percent to 3.1 percent.
  • 03.15.2010
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production ticked up 0.9 percent (annualized rate) in February, despite winter storms in the Northeast that likely restrained production. The 3-month annualized growth rate in production stands at a relatively strong 5.9 percent, and has remained above 5.0 percent since last August. Manufacturing production dipped down 2.1 percent in February as output across industries was mixed. The largest decrease was to motor vehicles production, which fell 41 percent in February, after a 74 percent gain in January. On the upside, petroleum and coal output jumped up 29.7 percent during the month, reversing a 31 percent decrease in January. Also, the production of computer and electronic products jumped up 12.3 percent in February, nearly matching its 6-month growth rate of 12.5 percent. Helping to bolster the overall increase in February, mining output jumped up 26.9 percent, while utilities production increased 6.3 percent during the month. Capacity utilization increased for the eighth consecutive month, ticking up from 72.5 percent to 72.7 percent in February, but remains well below its pre-recession (November 2007) level of 80.5 percent.
  • 03.12.2010
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment slipped 1.2 points in March to 72.5 according to the preliminary report. This was the second consecutive small decline, but the index remains more than 15 points above its year-ago level and just 1.9 points below January’s recent high of 74.4. Both components of the index contributed to its decline, with current conditions dropping 1.0 point and consumer expectations declining 1.2. While sentiment has shown considerable improvement from the recession lows recorded more than a year ago, it has moved horizontally during the past six months with only small monthly variations. According to the release, consumers continued to report improvement in the overall economy in early March, but nonetheless expected tough times to persist for the remainder of the year. Consumers were less positive about prospects for declines in unemployment, and the majority expect some setbacks rather than uninterrupted economic growth over the next five years. Inflation expectations were little changed from February. One-year-ahead average inflation expectations ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 3.5 percent in March, while the longer-run (5- to 10-year-ahead) expectations pulled back 0.2 percentage point to 3.1 percent.
  • 03.12.2010
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales rose 0.3 percent (nonannualized) in February, surprising estimates of a slight decline. Perhaps even more impressive was the overall gain came as autos tumbled down 2.0 percent during the month. Excluding autos, retail sales jumped up 0.8 percent in February and are up 4.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. Moreover, sales rose in every broad category except for autos and health and personal care stores. Increases were led by strong gains at electronics and appliance stores (up 3.7 percent) and miscellaneous retailers (up 2.5 percent). An addendum measure meant to get at “core” retail sales—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—jumped up 0.9 percent in February, leading to an increase in its 3-month annualized growth rate, which improved from 4.9 percent to a relatively strong 5.2 percent in January. Over the past 12 months, the series is up 2.5 percent.
  • 03.11.2010
  • International Trade
  • The nominal trade deficit narrowed by $2.6 billion to $37.3 billion in January following two months of widening. Since reaching its recent low of $25.8 billion in May, the deficit has seesawed but has generally been trending upward toward pre-recession levels. Perhaps the most surprising part of the report is the decline of both imports and exports. Imports tumbled for the first time since August, slipping 1.7 percent, led by a 3.0 percent decrease in capital goods and an 8.1 percent drop in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines. Exports fell 0.3 percent after rising for eight straight months, as a 0.7 percent decline in goods outweighed a 0.4 percent rise in services. Still, the 12-month growth rates of both imports and exports are at their highest levels since August 2008, reaching 11.9 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively.

  • 03.05.2010
  • The Employment Situation
  • Nonfarm payrolls edged down a slight 36,000 (changes of plus or minus 100k are needed for significance) in February, following a decrease of 26,000 in January. On net, back revisions (to the two previous months) added 35,000. Concerning the snow storms, the BLS added a technical note explaining that in order for the weather to have affected the estimates, employees must have been sidelined (not paid) for any part of that pay period (about half the survey has a pay period longer than one week). Also, there might have been additions due to hirings for snow removal, making any determination on the net effects of the storms “not possible to quantify precisely.” Turning to the details of February’s report, private payrolls fell 18,000, compared to losses of 33,000 in January and 83,000 in December. Construction employment saw the worst of it during the month, slipping down 64,000, and has now fallen by 1.9 million since December 2007. Manufacturing payrolls were essentially flat in February. The service side added 42,000 workers in February. As gains in temporary help services (up 48,000), education (up 12,000), and health services (up 20,000) more than offset losses in information industries (down 18,000), transportation (down 12,000), and financial activities (down 10,000). Federal government payrolls added 7,000 in February, mostly as temporary hiring for the Census (plus 15,000) offset a decline in postal service employment (down 9,000). Local government payrolls continue to shed workers, cutting 31,000 in February, and have trimmed 156,000 (or 1.1 percent) over the past year. Average weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory workers slipped down 0.2 hour to 33.1 hours, though this was largely due to a large decrease in construction hours, slipping from 37.8 hours to 36.8 hours, which the BLS noted likely reflected the “unusually severe winter storms.”

    On the household side, the number of unemployed persons was virtually unchanged in February, and the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent (analysts expected a slight uptick to 9.8 percent). Also, the employment-to-population ratio improved for the second consecutive month, ticking up 0.1 percentage point (pp) to 58.5 percent in February.

  • 03.04.2010
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods rose 1.7 percent (nonannualized) in January, following a 1.5 percent gain in December. However, excluding transportation, new orders increased just 0.1 percent. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft slipped down sharply in January (−4.1 percent), downwardly revised from the advance report on durables which pegged the loss at 2.9 percent. Shipments of manufactured goods lost a little traction in January, increasing just 0.3 percent after an average gain of 1.4 percent over the prior four months. Manufacturers increased their inventories by 0.2 percent in January, reversing a 0.2 percent decline in December. At 1.29 months, the manufacturing inventory-to-shipments ratio is well off its peak of 1.47 reached last January, though it remains slightly elevated from pre-recession levels. Read more
  • 03.04.2010
  • Productivty and Costs
  • Nonfarm business sector productivity was revised up from a strong 6.2 percent (annualized rate) gain to 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter, and is now up a whopping 5.8 percent on a year-over-year basis (its highest growth rate since 2002:Q1). The stronger fourth quarter reading was a result of an upward revision to output (revised up from 7.2 percent to 7.6 percent), while hours worked suffered a slight downward adjustment (from 1.0 percent to 0.6 percent). It is still the first increase in hours since 2007:Q2, though its four-quarter growth rate is still solidly negative (−5.7 percent). Compensation estimates were also shaded to the downside, resulting in a 5.9 percent drop in unit labor costs in the fourth quarter, compared to an initial reading of −4.4 percent. Unit labor costs have plummeted over the past year, down 4.7 percent—its sharpest decline on record (going back to 1947).
  • 03.01.2010
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income rose 0.1 percent (nonannualized) in January, the smallest of six consecutive increases. This follows a downwardly revised increase of 0.3 percent in December and brings the series’ 12-month growth rate to 1.1 percent, its first positive growth rate since December 2008. Private industry wages and salaries rose a relatively strong 0.3 percent. Disposable personal income fell 0.4 percent, its first loss since July. Personal savings as a percentage of disposable income fell 0.9 percentage points to 3.3 percent, the lowest level since October 2008, though it is still well above the 1.4 percent savings rate seen at the beginning of the recession. Nominal personal consumption expenditures rose 0.5 percent for the third time in four months. “Real” personal consumption, which adjusts for price effects, climbed 0.3 percent in January to its highest level since May 2008, though its 12-month growth rate is 0.3 percentage point lower than last month’s, at 1.4 percent.
  • 03.01.2010
  • PCE
  • The PCE price index rose 2.1 percent (annualized rate) in January, following an upwardly revised 1.7 percent increase in December. PCE prices are up 2.1 percent on a year-over-year basis for the second straight month. Excluding food and energy prices, “core” PCE was virtually unchanged in January, at 0.1 percent, following a 1.1 percent increase in December. The 12-month growth rate of core PCE ticked down one percentage point to 1.4 percent, while over the past 3 months core PCE is up only 0.2 percent, the lowest level in a year.
  • 03.01.2010
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) declined 1.9 points in February to an index value of 56.5. Although moderating in February, the diffusion index has now been above its growth threshold of 50 for seven consecutive months. The decline in the overall index stems from declines in production (7.8 points) and new orders (6.4 points) while all other components of the index improved during the month. The employment index increased from 53.3 to 56.1 indicating that the labor market in the manufacturing sector is continuing to improve. Inflation concerns remain in check as the prices index declined 3.0 points to 67.
  • 03.01.2010
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending in January dropped 0.6 percent, as a 1.4 percent decline in nonresidential construction more than offset a moderate increase in residential spending. The fall in nonresidential construction was most notably driven by cutbacks in the areas of lodging, manufacturing, and communication. Total spending has retreated ten out of the past twelve months, putting the 12-month growth rate at −9.3 percent, a bit of an improvement over its low last September of −15.8 percent. Private construction spending posted a 0.6 percent drop in January and sits 14.3 percent below its level in January 2009. Public construction in January retreated 0.7 percent but still sits 2.1 percent above its year-ago level. Private residential construction continues to chart a choppy course, rising 1.3 percent in January after two larger consecutive declines. However, its 12-month growth rate climbed from −11.9 percent to −6.4 percent last month and has risen from an all-time low of −35 percent just last March, showing a slow recovery in the housing market.