Weekly Economic Review: Job Openings See Upswing in March, Hiring Lags

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/15/17 9:04 AM

Topics: Economy

In this week’s economic review, mortgage rates increased and consumer sentiment remained strong while consumer prices and sales saw only marginal gains this spring.

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iStockPhoto/Martin Barraud

Consumer Price Index

After a weak March, consumer prices rebounded as expected last month, according to Friday’s Consumer Price Index. Higher gasoline prices helped the index post a gain, as core CPI (consumer prices minus food and energy) only increased by 0.1% in the month and is only up 1.9% year-over-year, a 19-month low.

Job Opportunities

The gap between openings and qualified labor is still wide, according to the March Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. Job openings increased to 5.743 million in the month with hiring lagging behind at 5.260 million.

Labor Market Conditions

A big surprise for the Labor Market Conditions Index was a large upward revision for March. It had been reported at 0.4 but was revised to 3.6. April’s index stood at 3.5. While the index gains have been moderate in 2017, the index now stands at its best in two years, according to Bloomberg.

Retail Sales

Though retail sales did recover in April, they didn’t rise as much as expected. Up 0.4 percent overall and up 0.3 percent minus autos, the index hit the low end of consensus levels.

Consumer Sentiment

Despite only marginal increases in sales, consumer sentiment remains positive. In the preliminary May report, the sentiment index was up 4-tenths of a point to a 97.7 level. Current conditions remained steady at 112.7 while expectations moved over a point higher to 88.1, marking the best reading since the beginning of 2017.

This week in the economy:

  • The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate increased as of May 11, landing at 4.05% with 0.5 points, according to Freddie Mac.
  • Purchase applications increased a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in the week of May 5, and refinance applications were up 3 percent after falling 5 percent the week prior, according to MBA Mortgage Applications.
  • Initial jobless claims fell 2,000 in the week of May 6, according to Bloomberg. The 4-week average is slightly elevated at 243,500 but is down 5,000 to 10,000 from the month-ago averages.
  • The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index decreased nearly a point after reaching expansion highs, landing at a still-strong reading of 49.7.

The economic calendar for the week of May 15th, 2017:

  • Tuesday – Housing Starts
  • Wednesday – MBA Mortgage Applications
  • Thursday – Jobless Claims, Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index

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