April 3, 2015

Latest Economic News From The U.S. & Canada

  • U.S. employers added 126,000 jobs in March as the nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent. (Manufacturers shed 1,000 jobs for the month.) The labor force participation rate remained near its 40-year low. The U.S. Department of Labor also announced last week that the number of Americans who filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 268,000 for the week that ended March 28 from 288,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also declined, as did the number of Americans who continued to receive benefits. That figure dropped to 2.325 million for the week that ended March 21 from 2.413 million the week before. The number of continuing claims filed was the lowest level since December 2003.
  • In a reading that was better than analysts predicted, Statistics Canada said last week that the Canadian economy contracted 0.1 percent in January. Lower oil prices and declines in wholesale and retail services all contributed to the soft reading.
  • The Commerce Department announced last Thursday that the U.S.’s trade deficit fell to $35.4 billion in February from $42.7 billion in January, a nearly 17 percent decline. A $10.2 billion drop in imports and the strengthening dollar contributed to the improved reading. The deficit was down 3.2 percent from February 2014. The trade deficit with China increased 23.9 percent, however, to a new record of $342.6 billion.
  • Meanwhile, according to Statistics Canada, that country’s trade deficit also narrowed significantly, falling to $984 million in February from $1.5 billion in January as exports and imports both dropped. The February reading was better than analysts had predicted and the January deficit was also down from the $2.5 billion reading Statistics Canada initially reported.
  • New orders for U.S. factory goods rose 0.2 percent between January and February while shipments increased 0.7 percent. Inventories fell, however, declining 0.1 percent, as the inventory-to-shipments ratio rose to 1.35 from 1.36 in January.
  • According to Markit, the U.S. manufacturing sector strengthened in March. The organization’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the U.S. rose to 55.7 in March from 55.1 in February as job creation, new orders and output each improved last month. The Institute for Supply Management’s PMI for the U.S., meanwhile, showed a slight slowing in the U.S. manufacturing sector in March.
  • Meanwhile, the Royal Bank of Canada’s PMI for that country increased slightly, to 48.9 in March from 48.7 in February. The RBC said, “With a second consecutive reading below 50, the RBC PMI is signaling that Canada’s manufacturing sector continues to face headwinds. We remain confident that as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen and the Canadian dollar becomes more competitive, there will be an uptick in exports, a good sign for manufacturers – we need some time to see this materialize.”
  • The Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas announced that Texas’s manufacturing sector contracted in March for the first time in two years. Readings for production, new orders, capacity utilization, shipments and employment all fell last month.
  • In other economic news: driven by sales of German and Japanese brands, auto sales in the U.S. increased 0.6 percent between March 2014 and March 2015; U.S. personal incomes increased 0.4 percent from January 2015 to February 2015 while consumption increased 0.1 percent; the Conference Board Index of Consumer Confidence increased to 101.3 in March from 98.8 in February as consumers’ feelings about the future improved significantly; and U.S. construction spending fell 0.1 percent from January 2015 to February 2015, but was up 2.1 percent between February 2014 and February 2015.