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May 23, 2016

This Week’s Top Economic Data Points: Manufacturing Output Rises

  • Industrial production in the United States increased 0.7 percent in April as output at the nation’s manufacturers and utilities rose. Manufacturing production was up 0.3 percent last month; utilities’ output increased 5.8 percent; and mining production was down 2.3 percent.
  • According to Statistics Canada, manufacturing sales in the country fell 0.9 percent from February to March. The decline was driven by weakness in sales in the  transportation equipment and primary metals industries. Manufacturing sales were already down four percent in February, the most significant decline in seven years.
  • Regional manufacturing readings are mixed so far this month. The New York Federal Reserve announced last week that its manufacturing index fell to -9.0 in May from +10.0 in April as readings for new orders, shipments, prices paid, and prices received all fell below the zero mark that indicates contraction. The employment reading did remain above zero, however, at +2.1. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve announced that its manufacturing reading remained at -1.8 in May as the reading for new orders fell slightly, but the shipments index rose ten points. It was the eighth time in the last nine months the Philadelphia bank’s overall reading was below zero.
  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index rose to 123.9 in April from 123.3 in March. Conference Board Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research Ataman Ozyildirim said, “Despite a slow start in 2016, labor market and financial indicators, and housing permits all point to a moderate growth trend continuing in 2016.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Federal Reserve’s National Activity Index, another gauge of future economic growth, rose to +0.1 in April from -0.55 in March.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced last week that 278,000 individuals filed for federal unemployment benefits for the week that ended May 14, down from 294,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims rose however, increasing to 275,750 from 268,250. The number of individuals who continued to receive benefits fell to 2.152 million for the week that ended May 7 from 2.165 million the week before. The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose slightly. The DOL also announced last week that 11 states added jobs in April while five states lost jobs. Employment levels in 33 states were essentially the same as they were in March.
  • In other economic news: according to DOL, average hourly earnings for workers in the United States fell 0.1 percent in April while the consumer price index rose 0.4 percent from March 2016 to April 2016 and was up 1.1 percent from April 2015 to April 2016; Canadian wholesale sales fell one percent to $54.6 billion in March; existing homes sales in the United States rose 1.7 percent from March 2016 to April 2016 and were up six percent between April 2015 and April 2016; and the number of new homes under construction in the United States rose 6.6 percent between March and April, but were down 1.7 percent year-over-year.