A significant milestone has just been reached in the U.S. labor market. For the latest week ending February 27th, America’s initial jobless claims figure was less than 300,000 for the 52nd week in a row.
That’s a whole year of strong success in keeping the number of people newly unemployed quite low. (In the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the number topped off at 670,000.)
Falling below their 300,000 benchmark level, rosy initial jobless claims automatically imply encouraging news from the Employment Situation Report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS has just reported that in February, the total number of jobs in the U.S. rose by 242,000, where a gain of 200,000 or more is considered bullish.
The national unemployment rate stayed below 5.0% at 4.9%, the same as in January. A year ago, it had been 5.5%.
In another positive sign, the proportion of working-age people who actively sought employment in February moved a little higher, to 62.9%. This measure is called the ‘participation rate’ and it usually picks up when job prospects are good.
(On the flip side, when job prospects are abysmal, people stop looking for work and the result is a ‘discouraged worker’ effect.)
Based on the latest ‘actuals’ from Statistics Canada, the spring 2016 forecasts, out to 2019, of construction capital spending − also known as put-in-place investment – have just been calculated by CanaData.
Versus the fall of 2015, the year-over-year projections have mostly been scaled back.
Grand total constant dollar (i.e., adjusted for inflation) construction will decline a further 3.1% in 2016 after a drop of 3.4% in 2015. 2017 will see a slight improvement of +1.0%, followed by +3.5% in 2018 and +4.3% in 2019.
In the fall of last year, the comparable percentage changes were: 2015, -2.2%; 2016, +0.5%; 2017, +2.7%; and 2018, +4.1%. There was no 2019 forecast at that time.
In current dollars, 2015’s grand total was $285 billion, or -2.4% compared with $292 billion in 2014.
After a further 1.8% decline in this current year, 2016 will chalk up a volume of slightly less than $280 billion.
Current dollar gains of 2.9% and 5.6% in 2017 and 2018 respectively will finally lift the total dollar value of all Canadian put-in-place construction activity above $300 billion two years from now.
CMD announced today that January’s level of U.S. construction starts, excluding residential work, was $24.7 billion, an increase of 9.8% versus December. The nearly double-digit percentage increase was noteworthy since there is usually (i.e., average over 10-years-plus) a December-to-January decline, due to seasonality, of 8.5%.
Compared with January of 2015, the latest month’s starts level was +12.9%. Relative to average non-residential starts in January over the preceding five years, 2011 to 2015, the gain was +18.6%.
The starts figures throughout this report are not seasonally adjusted (NSA). Nor are they altered for inflation. They are expressed in what are termed ‘current’ as opposed to ‘constant’ dollars.
‘Non-residential building’ plus ‘engineering/civil’ work accounts for a considerably larger share of total construction than residential activity. The former’s combined proportion of total put-in-place construction in the Census Bureau’s December report was 63%; the latter’s was 37%. (more…)
Spending time in U.S. stock markets lately has not been a walk in the park. Drooping equity prices are a symptom of assorted maladies. The three that stand out most prominently are as follows. First, a great many people are worried about China’s economy and especially the state of its banking sector. There are thought to be way too many shaky loans in danger of crumbling if growth continues to decelerate. The subsequent drop in value of the yuan won’t be pretty.
Second, on account of a shockingly low international price for oil, investment in the U.S. energy sector has gone into a tailspin, affecting certain regions of the country more severely than others.
And third, the uplift in value of the U.S. dollar is limiting the ability of American manufacturers to win export sales. Some of the nation’s biggest firms are being negatively affected the most.
The accompanying table records the 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. in December 2015.
There are several reasons for highlighting upcoming large projects. Such jobs have often received a fair amount of media coverage. Therefore, people in the industry are on the lookout for when job-site work actually gets underway. And, as showcase projects, they highlight geographically where major construction projects are proceeding.
Also, total construction activity is comprised of many small and medium-sized projects and a limited number of large developments. But the largest projects, simply by their nature, can dramatically affect total dollar and square footage volumes. In other words, the timing and size of these projects have an exaggerated influence on market forecasts. (more…)
In the early going of 2016, the headline story has been the heightened level of anxiety displayed by stock market investors. Versus 2015’s year-end closings, both the Dow Jones Industrials index and the S&P 500 are -6.0%; NASDAQ is -7.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange, -5.2%.
Compared with their most recent highs, the DJI is -10.7%; the S&P 500, -10.0%; NASDAQ, -11.8%; and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), -20.5%. The TSX has given its passengers a particularly bumpy ride. It has fallen into ‘bear’ territory (i.e., a decline of 20% or more.)
The main widely-cited reason for the sell-offs has been an expectation of weaker growth in China. There are two highly-charged ways in which such a pull-back has unfortunate repercussions for the U.S. and Canadian economies. First, the value of the yuan is being lowered, to make the price of Chinese exports more competitive in world markets.
Talk to a demographer and he or she is likely to tell you that everything important that is happening in society and business can be explained by their practice or science.
As an economist, I don’t fully subscribe to such an assertion. Besides, what would I do if I didn’t have interest rates, inflation and government policy to mentally juggle as well as the study of demography?
But I don’t dismiss the claim out of hand either.
It does warrant admitting that population level, change and age-structure over time are key determinants of construction activity in several major type-of-structure categories.
That will be the focus of this Economy at a Glance, in two parts. The story will be told through the use of eight graphs.
The focus for CMD’s construction statistics, both in the U.S. and Canada, is on actual and forecast levels of starts.
There is another data set supplied by government agencies – i.e., the Census Bureau and Statistics Canada − known as the put-in-place (PIP) investment spending series.
For ‘starts’, the total value of a project is entered in the month when, according to a best estimate, ground is broken. The starts are often referred to as ‘lumpy’, since the largest projects play outsized roles.
Starts totals are built-up from the summation of all individual projects that are in the data base.
Conceptually, the PIP data set differs in that it simulates progress payments as projects proceed.
For example, while PIP numbers are actually based on owners’ and others’ estimates of capital spending across a total universe of construction activity, a $60 billion office building beginning in July of this year will be theoretically captured (approximately) as $20 billion appearing in 2015; $30 billion in 2016; and the final $10 billion in 2017. (more…)
September 17 is fast approaching. In fact, by the time you read this, it may already have been and gone. Why is that date so important? Because that’s when the next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet, with an announcement concerning interest rates to follow.
The federal funds rate hasn’t been altered from a range of 0.00% to 0.25% since December 16, 2008, nearly seven years ago. In mid-summer of this year, there seemed to be a strong likelihood the Fed would begin shifting yields higher in September. Then world stock markets fell into disarray as growth projections for China’s economy were scaled back and the yuan was devalued, slightly.
If the fed temporarily delays pulling the trigger out of concern over fragile world trade, the next FOMC meeting dates to mark on your calendar are October 28 and December 16 of this year and January 27 of 2016. Odds are pretty good that somewhere in that time frame, the fed will initiate tighter credit market action.
The Fed’s decision-making will take place against a backdrop that includes the following economic nuggets, as revealed in government reports and through media dissemination. (more…)