The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity continued to be healthy in its district in March. The composite index of general business activity eased somewhat from 25.8 in February to 22.3 in March, but new orders (up from 24.5 to 35.7) and shipments (up from 15.5 to 32.4) accelerated strongly at their fastest paces in 12 months. More importantly, just over 52 percent of respondents said that new orders had increased in March, with just 16.4 percent noting declines. In addition, the labor market remained tight, with employment (up from 25.2 to 25.6) strengthening slightly and nearly 35 percent of those completing the survey suggesting that hiring had picked up in March. The average workweek (down from 13.7 to 12.8) slowed a bit in this report but was strong overall. Read More
Manufacturing activity in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s district continued to show solid gains in manufacturing activity in March. In the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the composite index of general business conditions rose from 13.1 in February to 22.5 in March. After decelerating for four straight months from the three-year high of 28.8 in October, it was encouraging to see the headline index rebound once again. Many of the key underlying data points were also higher in March, including faster expansions for new orders (up from 13.5 to 16.8), shipments (up from 12.5 to 27.0), the average workweek (up from 4.6 to 5.9) and inventories (up from 4.9 to 5.6). Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that producer prices for final demand goods and services rose 0.2 percent in February, easing somewhat from the 0.4 percent gain in January. For manufacturers, producer prices for final demand goods edged down 0.1 percent in February, pulling back from the 0.7 percent increase in January. Energy costs helped to boost January’s jump in input costs, with energy prices up 3.4 percent in that release; in the latest figures, energy fell 0.5 percent. Food prices declined 0.4 percent, drifting lower for the third straight month. On a year-over-year basis, final demand food and energy costs have risen 0.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively. Excluding food and energy, producer prices for final demand goods rose 0.2 percent in this report, increasing for the seventh consecutive month. Read More
Retail spending declined by 0.1 percent in February for the third straight month, starting the new year off with disappointing consumer data. Motor vehicle and parts sales were down 0.9 percent in February, decreasing for the fourth consecutive month, and one of the larger drags in the latest report. Along those lines, retail spending excluding automobiles was up 0.2 percent in February, extending the 0.1 percent gain seen in January. Despite the softer figures, the larger narrative remains an encouraging one, with consumers being a bright spot over the past year. Indeed, retail sales have risen 4.0 percent year-over-year in February, suggesting a decent pace overall even if it represented a deceleration from the more-robust rate of 5.9 percent in November. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, the pace was somewhat stronger, with retail sales up 4.4 percent over the past 12 months. Read More
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices increased 0.2 percent in February, slowing from a robust 0.5 percent gain in January. Food and energy costs decelerated in the latest data, with the latter being one of the bigger drivers of higher consumer prices in the prior release. Energy costs inched up 0.1 percent in February, slowing after a rise of 3.0 percent in January, with gasoline prices off 0.9 percent. This is largely consistent with data from the Energy Information Administration, which pegged the average price for regular conventional gasoline at $2.516 per gallon on January 29 but fell to $2.442 a gallon on February 26. At the same time, food prices were flat in February. Since February 2017, food and energy costs have increased 1.4 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. Read More
Key Takeaways: The manufacturing job market continues to show signs of strength, with the sector adding 14,000 workers in February. Since the end of 2016, manufacturers have hired nearly 14,700 each month—a robust pace. In the larger economy, nonfarm payrolls were up by 235,000 in February, well above the consensus estimate of around 195,000.
ADP said that manufacturers added 14,000 workers in February, once again extending the strong job gains in the sector as production and the overall outlook have improved substantially. Indeed, manufacturing business leaders have hired at a robust rate since the end of 2016, averaging nearly 14,700 per month over the past 14 months. In contrast, manufacturing employment was more sluggish in 2016, illustrating the turnaround in the labor market since then. More importantly, we expect continued strength in job growth moving forward. Read More