Data Updates

Data Updates

April 2009

  • 04.30.2009
  • Personal Income
  • Nominal personal income continued to decline in March, falling 3.4 percent (annualized rate), which follows a 2.4 percent decrease in February that has left the 12-month growth rate at 0.3 percent (an all-time low). Nominal disposable income ticked down just 0.2 percent and has been virtually flat since January’s outsized 20.9 percent jump. After adjusting for changes in consumer prices, “real” disposable income increase 0.1 percent in March, following a 3.9 percent decline in February. Real personal consumption decreased 2.6 percent in March. However, this follows upward revisions to February and January’s figures. January’s consumption increase has not been revised up from an initial estimate of 4.6 percent to 10.8 percent currently, accounting for much of the upside surprise in first quarter consumption in the advanced GDP release. The personal savings rate (as a percentage of disposable income) ticked up to 4.2 percent in March, up from 4.0 percent in February, and has now been above 4.0 percent for three consecutive months. To add some context, over the past ten years, the personal savings rate has only breached the 4.0 percent mark three other times (September 2001, December 2004 and May 2008).
  • 04.30.2009
  • PCE
  • The PCE price index was virtually flat in March, falling just 0.3 percent (at an annualized rate). Over the past 12 months, the index is only up 0.6 percent, its lowest growth rate since December 1961. On the other hand, excluding food and energy prices (core PCE), the index rose 2.2 percent in March, after a 2.8 percent increase in February, leaving its longer-term (12-month) growth rate at 1.8 percent. Nondurable goods prices fell by 1.4 percent in March, while durables rose 0.9 percent. Services prices were unchanged in March, which is an outlier considering that the last time PCE Services Index was flat-to-down happened in September 2001, when services prices fell 8.0 percent.
  • 04.30.2009
  • ECI
  • The Employment Cost Index (ECI) for civilian workers increased just 1.1 percent (annualized rate) in the first quarter of 2009, pulling its year-over-year growth rate down to 2.1 percent from 2.6 percent in February. The wages and salaries for workers in goods-producing industries rose just 0.4 percent during the month, its lowest growth on record (going back to 1975:Q3). Private service-providing salaries increased 1.1 percent in March, tempered by a large 4.0 percent decrease in the salaries of workers in the financial sector.
  • 04.29.2009
  • Real GDP
  • Real GDP decreased at an annualized rate of 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009, slightly less negative than the −6.3 percent in the fourth quarter, but coming in worse than consensus expectations.The four-quarter growth rate in real GDP fell to −2.6 percent, its lowest growth rate since the 1982 recession. The first quarter decrease was driven by negative contributions from BFI, exports, and private inventories, and was partially offset by consumption gains and a decrease in imports (which adds to real GDP). Nonresidential fixed investment (BFI) posted its sharpest post-war decrease, plummeting 37.9 percent in the first quarter and taking 4.7 percentage points away from real GDP growth. Real exports decreased 30.0 percent in the first quarter, which subtracted 4.1 percentage points from growth and pushed its year-over-year growth rate down to −11.3 percent. However, imports fell even further, declining 34.1 percent during the quarter, which led to net exports actually adding 2.0 percentage points to real GDP growth. Given the wild swings in the international trade data, it might be useful to examine output changes that exclude those series. Real gross domestic purchases—which ignores net exports—fell 7.8 percent in the first quarter, following a 5.9 percent decrease last quarter. The sell-off in private inventories continued in the first quarter, subtracting 2.8 percentage points from growth. There was one positive development embedded in the release. Real personal consumption expenditures increased by 2.2 percent (more than was expected), following two consecutive quarterly decreases. Spending on consumer durables jumped up by 9.5 percent during the quarter, after four consecutive quarterly decreases.
  • 04.24.2009
  • Durable Goods
  • New orders for durable goods came in slightly higher than expectated, falling just 0.8 percent in March (nonnannualized). However, February’s gain was revised down by 1.3 percentage points to 3.4 percent, accounting for most (if not all) of the surprise. The 12-month growth rate in new orders stands at −25.2 percent, but it has been fairly steady for the past three months. A somewhat encouraging sign in the March report was that nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft rose 1.5 percent during the month, stringing together two consecutive increases for the first time since mid-2008. This pushed up its 12-month growth rate to −18.4 percent, up 1.9 percentage points from February. However, shipments continued to decline in March, falling 1.7 percent and outpacing the decrease in inventories (down 1.1 percent in March). The resulting inventory-to-shipments ratio ticked up to 1.9 months from 1.88 months previously, indicating that the downward pressure on production will likely remain in the near-term until businesses can shed excess inventories (or demand bounces back).
  • 04.24.2009
  • New Home Sales
  • New single-family home sales fell only 0.6 percent in March, following an 8.2 percent gain in February. The 12-month growth rate in sales improved over the month, increasing from −37.4 percent to a still very weak −30.6 percent. Despite the two months of relatively positive news, it is too early to call a bottom to the decline in sales. Since new home sales started to decline in late 2005, there have been numerous small increases in sales, but so far none have held more than a few months. The number of new homes on the market continued to decline in March, falling 5.8 percent and yielding 10.7 months of supply at the current sales pace. The median sales price of new single-family homes continued to decline in March as well, but the 12-month growth rate in the series increased slightly from an all-time low of −14.9 percent to −12.2 percent.
  • 04.23.2009
  • Existing Home Sales
  • Existing single-family home sales declined 2.8 percent in March, following February’s 4.2 percent increase. Over the past five months, existing single family home sales have been relatively stable, bouncing back and forth between an annual pace of roughly 4 million and 4.2 million units. The 12-month growth rate in the median sales price of existing single-family homes increased for the second straight month, but remains depressed at -11.5 percent. The number of existing single-family homes on the market fell modestly over the month resulting in only a slightly higher level of supply relative to the sales pace. With 9.3 months of supply at the current sales pace available, the inventory of homes on the market remains elevated despite recent improvements in the series.
  • 04.17.2009
  • Consumer Sentiment
  • Consumer sentiment unexpectedly jumped up to an index value of 61.9 in April, up from 57.3 in March, to its highest value in six months. Both the current conditions and consumer expectations components increased in April, and the release noted that many respondents believe that the economy may have bottomed out and seem less concerned about the threat of depression. However, “...most consumers believe that when the rebound starts the economy will gain ground very slowly.” One-year ahead average inflation expectations jumped up a full percentage point to 3.4 percent in April and was likely linked to recent gas price increase. In comparison, five-to-ten-year ahead average inflation expectations ticked down to 2.8 percent from 2.9 percent.
  • 04.16.2009
  • Housing Starts and Permits
  • Single-family housing starts held steady in March, while February's 1.1 percent increase was revised down to only a 0.6 percent increase as a result of an upward revision to January's data. By holding February's small gain in March, single-family housing starts are up over a two-month period for the first time since April 2007. However, the 6- and 12-month growth rates for the series still remain substantially negative at -35.0 percent and -49.7 percent, respectively. Single-family housing starts increased in three of the four census regions with only the South, by far the largest region, posting a decline. Despite the gains, none of the regional series appears to have turned a corner just yet. Permits for single-family homes fell 7.4 percent in March, following February's substantial 16.1 percent increase. The 6- and 12-month growth rates in single-family permits are down 33.9 percent and 41.9 percent, respectively.
  • 04.15.2009
  • Consumer Price Index
  • The CPI decreased at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent in March, pulling the 12-month growth rate in the series down to -0.4 percent. The CPI came in slightly under expectations, and news wires are likely to hit on the negative year-over-year number. Much of the headline decrease was due to decreases in energy prices, as fuel oil and other fuel fell 61.6 percent (annualized), and motor fuel prices decreased 42 percent during the month. Many food categories (dairy, meats, cereals, and fruits and veggies) posted price declines as well. Excluding food and energy, the index rose 2.1 percent in March, though the BLS cautions that over 60 percent of the increase in the core CPI was due to a nonannualized 11.0 percent jump (251.4 percent at an annualized rate) in tobacco and smoking products prices. The core CPI is up 2.2 percent over the past 3 months, and 1.8 percent over the past year. The measures of underlying inflation produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the median CPI and 16 percent trimmed-mean CPI, rose 2.0 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The 16 percent trimmed-mean excluded most of the larger price increases contained in the CPI, as only 12 percent of the consumer market basket rose at rates greater than 5.0 percent, and concurrently picked up on some of the downward price momentum, as roughly 32 percent of the index exhibited outright price decreases. On a year-over-year basis, the median CPI is up 2.7 percent, while the trimmed-mean measure is up 2.3 percent.
  • 04.15.2009
  • Industrial Production
  • Industrial production decreased at an annualized rate of 16.4 percent in March, following a decline of the same magnitude in February, and pulling output down to 97.4 percent of its 2002 average (its lowest level since December 1998). The 12-month growth rate in production fell to -12.8 percent in March, and losses seem to be accelerating, as production decreased 20.0 percent (annualized rate) in the first quarter. Manufacturing output fell 18.9 percent in March, and losses were broad based, although motor vehicle and parts production did post a modest increase. The declines in mining output accelerated in March, falling 32.1 percent, compared to -17.0 percent over the three months prior. The release noted that a return to more "seasonal temperatures" helped to buoy utilities output, which increased 24.5 percent during the month. The capacity utilization rate fell to 69.3 percent in February, down roughly 1.0 percentage point from February and 3.6 percentage points since the beginning of the year. At 69.3 percent, capacity utilization is at a historical low for the series (going back to 1967).
  • 04.14.2009
  • Retail Sales
  • Total retail sales surprised expectations to the downside, falling 1.1 percent (nonannualized) in March, following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent gain in February. Losses were broad based, with increases in sales only at food and beverage stores and health and personal care stores. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales fell 0.9 percent during the month and are down 6.0 percent over the past 12 months. An alternative measure of core retail sales (one excluding autos, gas stations, and building material sales) also decreased 0.9 percent in March, exactly offsetting gains from the previous month.
  • 04.14.2009
  • Producer Price Index
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods fell much further than expected in March, decreasing at an annualized rate of 13.1 percent. March's decline, after gains of 1.4 percent (annualized rate) in February and 10.4 percent in January, pulled the 12-month growth rate in the PPI down to -3.6 percent from -1.6 percent in the previous month. The overall decrease was primarily due to falling energy and food prices, down 49.0 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively. The core PPI was unchanged from the previous month, and actually up 3.8 percent over the past 12 months. Further back on the line of production, core intermediate and core crude goods prices decreased, falling 4.1 percent and 18.0 percent, respectively.
  • 04.09.2009
  • Import Prices
  • Import prices increased 6.6 percent (annualized rate) in March, following seven consecutive monthly declines. However, the price gains were driven entirely by a large jump in petroleum prices (up 233 percent annualized rate) that was only partially offset by an 8.5 percent drop in nonpetroleum import prices. Over the past 12-months, the overall index is down 14.9 percent, while nonpetroleum import prices are down 3.7 percent. Export prices decreased 7.0 percent in March, accelerating after a 2.0 percent decline in February, though nowhere near the deepest decrease of the cycle (-32.2 percent in November). The 12-month growth rate in export prices continued to slow in March, falling to −6.7 percent, down from −4.6 percent in February.
  • 04.03.2009
  • Employment Report
  • Payroll employment continued to drop sharply in March, declining by 663,000. This brings total job losses to 5.1 million since the start of the recession in December 2007. The unemployment rate continued its climb, increasing by 0.4 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the highest rate since 1983. While this is another grim report, it is in line with expectations.

    In contrast to recent releases, the downward revisions to earlier months are less substantial in this report. January’s losses increased from 655,000 to 741,000, but February’s losses were left unchanged at 651,000. Job losses were spread broadly across all major sectors of the economy. Even education and health, the one sector that has shown steady growth, added only 8,000 jobs. Goods-producing industries shed 305,000 jobs, with manufacturing responsible for 161,000 and construction responsible for 126,000. Service-providing industries shed a total of 358,000 jobs, with the largest losses coming from professional & business services (−133,000). More than half of the losses in PBS came from temporary help services (−71,000). Retail trade lost 48,000 payrolls last month, with 12,000 stemming from auto dealerships. Employment in the financial sector declinced by 43,000 in March, leisure and hospitality declined 40,000, and transportation and warehousing lost 34,000 (half of this was in truck transportation). In the public sector, the federal government continued to hire, but losses at the state and local levels resulted in a total government loss of 5,000 jobs.

  • 04.02.2009
  • Factory Orders
  • New orders for manufactured goods increased 1.8 percent in February, breaking a streak of six consecutive declines during which orders fell a combined 25.2 percent. February’s increase bumped the 12-month growth rate up from an all-time low of −20.5 percent to −18.8 percent. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircrafts bounced back in February, rising 7.1 percent following a 12.3 percent decline in February. The series’ 12-month growth rate also rebounded, increasing from −24.5 percent to -18.3 percent. Shipments for manufactured goods declined for the seventh consecutive month, but only fell a modest 0.1 percent compared to an average decline of 3.8 percent over the prior six months. Inventories declined 1.2 percent in February resulting in an inventory-to-shipments ratio of 1.4, down just slightly from 1.5 in January.
  • 04.01.2009
  • ISM Manufacturing
  • The ISM Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) increased 0.5 point to 36.3. While this is the third consecutive increase since the index hit a cyclical low of 32.9 in December, the index is still extremely low and well below the expansionary threshold of 50. For comparison, the PMI bottomed out at 39.2 and 40.8 during the 1990 and 2001 recessions, respectively. The employment index increased 2.0 points to 28.1, but remains near its all time low level. The new orders index increased 8.1 points and is now up 18.1 points from its all-time low of 23.1 in December 2008. The inventories index, however, continued to decline and is now at cyclical low of 32.2.
  • 04.01.2009
  • Construction Spending
  • Total construction spending declined 0.9 percent in February as private spending fell by 1.6 percent. Both declines were the smallest since October. Private residential construction declined 4.3 percent in February following a 3.7 percent drop in January, while private nonresidential construction spending increased 0.3 percent , the first increase since September. Despite the meager increase, the 12-month growth rate in private nonresidential construction fell slightly and was negative for the second straight month at −0.2 percent. The 12-month growth rate in private residential construction spending decreased slightly to −29.8 percent, but has been relatively stable in that range for the past 12 months.