Weekly Economic Update-JOLTS And Jobs

After remaining at a low, low 4.1% for months, the unemployment rate pushed even lower last month, dropping to 3.9% and calling forth reports of “full employment.” The Employment Situation report for the month also noted the creation of 164,000 new jobs.

The month is off to its usual slow start, but the news so far has mostly been of the semi-excellent variety.

The April Employment Situation Report was not as good job-wise as had been anticipated with 164,000 new jobs against a forecast from Econoday of 191,000, but substantially better than last month’s disappointing 103,000. That estimate was kicked up a notch as well, revised to 135,000. What made headlines was the unemployment rate which seemingly froze at 4.1% last October. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the April rate ticked down to 3.9%, the lowest unemployment number since the last three months of 2000.

The March report had occasioned some concern in housing circles with a drop of 15,000 jobs in the construction sector. That now looks like just a blip in the system, perhaps related to unseasonal weather. There were 17,000 new construction jobs created in April.

While lagging the Employment Situation Report by a month, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) backs up the statistical reality of 3.9% unemployment--i.e., it actually translates to “full employment.”

In the words of Econoday, “There are more than enough job openings, at 6.550 million in March, to give everyone who's looking for a job (at 6.346 million in April's employment report) a job. And though 5.425 million were hired in March, the gap between openings and hires in today's JOLTS report--at 1.125 million--is the largest on record which suggests that employers are having a hard time finding people with the right skills.” The Labor Department says there is a 1-to-1 ratio between the unemployed and job openings.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Fannie Mae reported that its Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) hit a survey high last month largely because of a record number of consumers who say now is a good time to sell. The net positive response to that question has gone up by 19 points since last April.

The HPSI aggregates six of the 100+ questions asked each month in the National Housing Survey into a single number. Fannie Mae says it reflects respondents’ current views and expectations about the housing market and their personal finances.

Five of the index components moved higher. The lone exception was the “is it a good time” question regarding buying a home. Only a net of 29% believed that to be true.

Maybe the upbeat attitude toward selling will reflect itself in more listings and a broadening of inventories for the spring market.



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