Pollack: Back to normal, sort of . . .

The Monday Morning Quarterback: A quick analysis of important economic data released over the last week

U.S. Snapshot

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 148,000 in September and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.2%.  Employment increased in Construction, Wholesale Trade, and Transportation & Warehousing.  The number of unemployed persons, at 11.3 million, was also little changed over the month.  While the labor force participation rate (63.2%) was unchanged in September, it has actually declined by 0.4 percentage points over the past year.  This is unusual for this point in the cycle and shows that some people are simply giving up on looking for a job.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for October hit a 10-month low.  This shows that the reopening of the federal government failed to reassure households.  The index stands at 73.2 compared to 77.5 in September and 82.6 in October of 2012.

Construction spending was up 0.6% in August vs. July.  This August is 7.1% above August 2012.   The increase was almost entirely in the private sector as the government sector was flat for the month and down from a year ago.

Zillow’s third quarter data shows home values up 1.2% from the second quarter.  On a monthly basis, home prices were flat.  Prices in September were up 6.4% from a year ago.

New orders for durable goods jumped in September largely due to aircraft orders.  Outside of transportation, orders were marginally negative, indicating that manufacturing is still sluggish.  Yet, new orders are up 7.4% over a year ago. Hopefully, non-aircraft orders will pick up next month and offset what is bound to be a slowdown in aircraft orders.

Arizona Snapshot

Zillow reported home values in Greater Phoenix were up 1.1% in September from August and up 20.9% from September 2012.  The median price was $184,800.

Statewide lodging performance improved in September vs. August.  Occupancy was up to 55.2% from 54.4% in August and 54.2% a year ago.  Demand increased 3.7% over the year while supply was flat.  In the Greater Phoenix area, occupancy increased to 53.0% in September compared to 49.7% in August and 50.4% a year ago.  Demand grew by 5.4% over the past year while supply was up 0.4%.

This Week’s Chart

National confidence as represented by the University of Michigan sentiment index is low compared to other recoveries and has been weak as of late.  This weakness in confidence comes from several factors including modest employment growth, a terrible message coming out of Washington, and very weak real wage growth.  Confidence is expected to improve, but, only modestly so relative to history.


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