Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week(-end)ly Indicators: Jobs Jobs Jobs edition

- by New Deal democrat

[Note: Sometimes the real world curtails my ability to participate here. This last week was such a week. Anyway, I have time now, so here, tardily, are the weekly indicators]

The only important monthly statistic released this week was saved for last. September was the first month all this year that, excluding the census, jobs were lost. -18,000 to be exact. As I pointed out in a brief comment yesterday, there is a real divergeance between the BLS's Establishment survey, which is the source of that number, and the Household survey, in which the Census Bureau showed +141,000 jobs being created. There is about a 1,000,000 job difference so far this year in the two surveys!

A few notes, contra most commentary. The benchmark reduction of -330,000 jobs covered the period of March 2009 to March 2010. If it is like last year's revision, the lion's share of that reduction will be in the first part of that period, i.e., at the end of the recession and immediately afterward in 2009. It may not impact 2010 more than trivially. We shall see.

Secondly, the internals of the BLS report actually showed continued widespread slow gains in jobs, with two important exceptions: local government jobs, and construction. These are precisely the two areas where stimulus was withdrawn or not renewed earlier this year. As a result, new home sales tanked, and state and local governments have been forced to lay off thousands of workers. Layoffs that otherwise would have happened in 2009 are happening now -- in the case of state and local employees (-76,000), these layoffs can be blamed squarely on Congressional idiocy.

Manufacturing hours worked declined .1 hour. This will subtract from the LEI, but September's LEI should still be positive. Otherwise, the manufacturing data showed a continued slowdown, but still growth.

Let's turn now to the high frequency weekly data. These continue to generally be positive, but were more mixed this week.

The Mortgage Bankers' Association reported that its Refinance Index decreased 2.5% from the previous week, and has now declined for 5 straight weeks, despite record low rates. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, however, increased a whopping 9.3% from one week before. This is quite a bounce, but don't celebrate yet, as it was probably due to "a desire by borrowers to get applications in before new FHA requirements took effect October 4th, which included somewhat higher credit score and down payment requirements.” Still, it's nice to see purchase activity has a pulse.

The ICSC reported same store sales for the week ending October 3 fell -0.8% week over week, but were up 2.4% YoY, a weak performance compared with recent gains. Shoppertrak reported that for the week ending October 2, YoY sales rose a pathetic 0.2%, and 2.3% over the previous week. On a monthly basis, the ICSC said that September same store sales rose 2.6% YoY, but this rate of growth is below the 3% YoY growth rate during the summer. Since retail sales started to grow meaningfully in the latter part of last year, in part this simply shows more challenging YoY comparisons. Nevertheless, retail sales appear to be reflecting the anticipated economic slowdown in growth.

Gas prices rose 4 cents to $2.73 a gallon, and at usage at 8.989 million gallons was slightly below last year at this time. Gasoline stocks continue to be 10% above their normal range for this time of year. This also reflects a slowdown, and the fact that Oil rose close to $85 a barrel this past week is a bad omen, as the price of Oil continues to act as a choke collar on growth.

The BLS reported 445,000 new jobless claims. The four week average declined again to 456,000, close to its lowest reading all year. The decline in new jobless claims is an important bright spot in the LEI.

Railfax once again showed rail traffic improving last week, and improving at a rate similar to one year ago. Economically sensitive waste and scrap metal improved, but still is running no better than last year's levels. Auto loads increased compared with last year.

The American Staffing Association reported that for the week ending September 26, temporary and contract employment increased to 100.0, once again making a two year high. Temp staffing is near 2006 levels, but not a 2007's yet. If this trend continues, in a few month we should see more permanent hiring.

M1 rose 1.5% last week, and also increased about 1.5% month over month, and up about 6.5% YoY, so “real M1” is up 5.3%. M2 increased again 0.3% last week, +0.7% month over month, and up 3.3% YoY, so “real M2” is up 2.1%. The important news here is that "real" M2 is now close to breaking out of the "red zone" of +2.5%, which would give us the "all clear" as to any "double dip."

Weekly BAA commercial bond rates declined last week, down .08% to 5.58%. Rates falling while stock prices rose remains a good sign.

Five days into October, the Daily Treasury Statement is up $41.7 B vs. $38.3 B a year ago, a gain of ~6%. For the last 20 days, receipts are up $128.4 B vs. $122,5 B a year ago, a gain of about 4.9%.

The weekly indicators were mixed this week. Improving jobless claims, rail loads, money supply, and temp staffing were offset by Oil prices, and weak retail. Slowdown, but no double-dip, remains the story.