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Today's Facts

REAL WAGES STILL DOWN 2.5% UNDER BIDEN

Key Points:

  • Real average hourly earnings are hourly earnings adjusted for inflation. They are one measure of real wages, which represent the economic return to work.
  • Despite average hourly earnings trending up, wages are still down after adjusting for inflation.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in March from February and is up 3.5% in the last year.
  • Real average hourly earnings have fallen from $35.60 in January 2021 to $34.69 in March 2024, a 2.5% decline.

INFLATION TICKS UP IN MARCH, CORE PRICES REMAIN HIGH

Key Points:

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in March, the same reading as February.
  • CPI increased 3.5% from a year ago, up from 3.2% in February, and above consensus of 3.4%.
  • The index for shelter rose 0.4% and the energy index rose 1.1% over the month.
  • The index for food at home was unchanged over the month while the index for food away from home rose 0.3%.
  • The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.4% in March and is up 3.8% from the previous year.
  • The energy index is up 2.1%, the food index is up 2.2%, and shelter is up 5.7% from the previous year.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor CPI.

HIRING ACCELERATED IN MARCH

Key Points:

  • Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 303,000 in March and the unemployment rate fell 0.1% to 3.8%.
  • Consensus among economists was a gain of 200,000 jobs.
  • The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 27,000, from +229,000 to +256,000, and the change for February was revised down by 5,000, from +275,000 to +270,000. With these revisions, employment in January and February combined is 22,000 higher than previously reported.
  • Health care added 72,000 jobs in March, government employment rose by 71,000, leisure and hospitality increased by 49,000, construction added 39,000 jobs, and retail trade added 18,000.
  • In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by $0.12 to $34.69.
  • The average workweek for all private employees edged up by 0.1 hours to 34.4 hours in March.
  • The labor force participation rate rose to 62.7% and is 0.7% below its February 2020 level.
  • In March, the unemployed population was flat at 6.4 million but job openings rose to 8.8 million in February.

JOB OPENINGS ROSE TO 8.8 MILLION IN FEBRUARY, JANUARY REVISED DOWN

Key Points:

  • The number of available jobs since May 2021 continues to outnumber Americans looking for work.
  • Job openings rose modestly to 8.8 million in February, slightly above consensus of 8.7 million.
  • In February, job openings increased in finance and insurance (+126,000); state and local government, excluding education (+91,000); and arts, entertainment, and recreation (+51,000).
  • Job openings decreased in information (-85,000) and in federal government (-21,000).
  • The U.S. added 275,000 jobs in February but there were 6.5 million people unemployed.
  • The number of job openings for January was revised down by 115,000 to 8.7 million, the number of hires was revised up by 11,000 to 5.7 million, and the number of total separations was revised up by 108,000 to 5.4 million.
  • In February, the number and rate of hires were little changed at 5.8 million and 3.7%, respectively. Hires decreased in durable goods manufacturing (-44,000).
  • The number of total separations in February rose to 5.6 million, and the rate was 3.5%.
  • Over the month, the number of total separations increased in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+64,000) but decreased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-62,000).
  • Within separations, quits (3.5 million) and layoffs and discharges (1.7 million) changed little.
  • In February, the number of quits was little changed at 3.5 million, and the rate was 2.2% for the fourth consecutive month.
  • The number of layoffs and discharges increased in accommodation and food services (+67,000) and in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+57,000).
  • The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.5% for the third month and is 0.9% below its February 2020 level.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor unemployment and job openings.

CONSUMERS SPENDING MORE, MAKING LESS

Key Points:

  • U.S. consumer spending rose by 0.8%, or $145.5 billion, in February, after rising 0.2% in January.
  • Personal income increased by 0.3%, or $66.5 billion, in February, after rising 1.0% in January.
  • The overall personal consumption expenditures price index rose 0.3% in February and is up 2.5% from a year prior.
  • The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.3% in February and is up 2.8% from a year prior.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor spending, prices, and income.

HOUSING PRICES CONTINUE TO TREND UPWARD

Key Points:

  • The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 6.0% in the year that ended in January after rising 5.6% in December.
  • The 20-City Composite posted a year-over-year increase of 6.6%, up from a 6.2% increase in the previous month.
  • The 10-City Composite showed an increase of 7.4%, up from a 7.0% increase in the previous month.
  • San Diego again reported the highest year-over-year gain among the 20 cities with an 11.2% increase in January, followed by Los Angeles, with an increase of 8.6%.
  • Portland, though holding the lowest rank after reporting the smallest year-over-year growth, retained an upward trend with a 0.9% increase this month.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor home prices.

CALIFORNIA SURPASSES NEVADA FOR HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN FEBRUARY

Key Points:

  • Unemployment rates rose in three states, fell in three, and remained stable in 44 states and the District of Columbia in February.
  • The U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.2% to 3.9% in February.
  • In total, 22 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.9%, 6 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 22 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.
  • Twenty-eight states had jobless rate increases from a year earlier, three states had decreases, and 19 states and the District had little change.
  • North Dakota had the lowest jobless rate in January at 2.0%, followed by South Dakota at 2.1%.
  • California unseated Nevada for the highest unemployment rate again at 5.4% and 5.4% respectively.
  • In February, three states had over-the-month unemployment rate increases: Rhode Island (+0.3%) and Connecticut and Washington (+0.1%).

U.S. RETAIL SALES ROSE IN FEBRUARY BUT MISSED EXPECTATIONS

Key Points:

  • Retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, rose 0.6% in February from January, below consensus of 0.8%.
  • Excluding autos, retail sales rose by 0.3% over the month, below expectations of 0.4%.
  • Retail sales were 1.5% above February 2023 but CPI data released earlier this month showing prices have increased 3.2% in the last year.
  • Retail sales are not adjusted for inflation and reflect price differences as well as purchase amounts.
  • Total sales for the December 2023 through February 2024 period were up 2.1% from the same period a year ago.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor retail sales.

REAL WAGES HAVE FALLEN 2.5% UNDER BIDEN

Key Points:

  • Real average hourly earnings are hourly earnings adjusted for inflation. They are one measure of real wages, which represent the economic return to work.
  • Despite average hourly earnings trending up, wages are still down after adjusting for inflation.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in February from January and is up 3.2% in the last year.
  • Real average hourly earnings have fallen from $35.46 in January 2021 to $34.57 in February 2024, a 2.5% decline.

INFLATION RISES TO 3.2%, ABOVE EXPECTATIONS

Key Points:

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% in February after rising 0.3% in January.
  • CPI increased 3.2% from a year ago, up from 3.1% in January, and above consensus of 3.1%.
  • The index for shelter rose 0.4% and the energy index rose 2.3% over the month.
  • The index for food at home was unchanged over the month while the index for food away from home rose 0.1%.
  • The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.4% in February and is up 3.8% from the previous year.
  • The energy index is down 1.9%, the food index is up 2.2%, and shelter is up 5.7% from the previous year.
  • The Right Facts will continue to monitor CPI.