Friday Economic Snapshot: There’s work to be done
Political chaos has subsided, third quarter financial results are rolling in, the Dow has posted slight gains throughout the week and consumers and economics are still feeling the effects of our government shutdown that some say sucked $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.
With federal employees back on the case, official indicators have re-entered the financial jet stream — and this week gave us a lot of numbers to digest. Let’s dig in.
Fresh after the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ welcome-back-to-work party, we imagine, everybody got right to work releasing the next round of government unemployment statistics. As many economists and pundits predicted, the results painted a dim picture of stalled-out growth. The BLS numbers actually came in even weaker than expected.
For September, the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.2 percent, with a lackluster 148,000 jobs added. While this is the lowest level of unemployment since November 2008, we aren’t creating enough jobs to truly move the needle.
In addition, the Department of Labor reported that initial unemployment claims declined to 350,000 from the previous total of 358,000. It will be curious to see the next report, which may show the impact of the government shutdown.
In line with its unemployment data, the BLS also reported that job openings were “little changed” in August, with 3.9 million job openings at the end of the month. Job openings did increases from July (3.808 million to 3.883), but the general trend shows continuous, gradual improvement in the labor market.
Things are interesting in the mortgage/housing market at present. A massive slowdown in refinancing activity has led to swaths of large-scale job layoffs across the country, from the mortgage departments of Wells Fargo and Bank of America to name two powerhouse lenders axing jobs.
September showed an increase in the mortgage delinquency rate — up to 6.46 percent from 6.20 in August. Similarly, the number of properties 30 days or more past due but not in foreclosure increased to 1,935,000 from 1,836,000.
This isn’t anything to worry about, given the fears of a bubble that may not, in fact, be materializing. That said, it’s a trend worth watching.