Monday Moneybeat: A historically healthy job market

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Four economic reports today: together, they confirm we’re in a slow-growth phase right now, with signs of possible faster growth mid-year, and that inflation is in check.

First, a jobs report shows the labor market remains historically healthy. That Labor Department report is called the JOLT Survey, an acronym for Job Openings and Labor Turnover. It says American employers have more open and unfilled positions than there are unemployed people: 7.58 million jobs available and about 6-1/2 million officially classified unemployed by that measure.

Openings began outpacing unemployed last spring. That was the first time in the 18 years the government’s been conducting the JOLT Survey.

The survey revealed one other key data point: 3.5 million people quit their jobs in January. That’s a figure about 3 percent higher than December. It may seem an odd metric to consider a positive, quitting jobs, but what it means is people are leaving jobs for better-paying positions.

REICHARD: Reports on industrial production and durable-goods orders signaled a slower pace to start calendar year 2019.
The Federal Reserve reported February industrial production was 3.5 percent better year on year and just one-tenth better month on month.

But the two main drivers were increases in utilities and mining, and that left the manufacturing piece down four-tenths February versus January. And that means two straight months of decline for manufacturing.

Durable goods orders rose 0.4 percent month on month for January. But the way to read that Commerce Department report is to back out the most volatile category and it’s sales of commercial aircraft, which spiked almost 16 percent. Back that out, and durables fell one-tenth.

EICHER: Now, there’s a bright spot in the numbers, one other way economists consider these durable-goods reports—and that’s sales of capital goods minus aircraft. It’s a proxy for business investment. That indicator increased almost a full percentage point after two months of decline, and it’s a metric pointing to a faster pace for growth mid-year.

It also appears, by a Commerce Department report on Producer Prices and the Consumer Price Index, that inflation is at a healthy place. Wholesale prices are up in February just one-tenth of a percent month on month, and year on year 1.9 percent. As long as it’s around 2, that’s a good number. The Consumer Price Index for February was up 1.5 year on year.

REICHARD: After Wall Street’s winning streak broke the week before, traders started a new one last week. All the major stock indexes posted gains: the Standard & Poor’s 500 up 2.9 percent, the Dow gained 1.6. The Nasdaq rose 3.8 percent last week and the Russell 2000 picked up 2.1.

EICHER: And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) In this March 5, 2019, file photo trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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