March 11, 2019

U.S., Canadian Trade Deficits Widen


  • The U.S. Commerce Department reported last week that the nation’s trade deficit in December 2018 was $59.8 billion, up $9.5 billion from $50.3 billion in November, and at its highest level on record. Exports fell $3.9 billion at the end of last year while imports rose by $5.5 billion. For 2018, the goods and services deficit increased $68.8 billion, or 12.5 percent, from 2017. Exports increased $148.9 billion, or 6.3 percent, while imports increased $217.7 billion (7.5 percent). The deficit in goods grew 10% last year to $891.3 billion, also the widest reading on record. The United States’ trade deficit with China increased to $419.2 billion, up 11.6 percent from 2017. Click here to read the full report.
  • The Canadian goods trade deficit widened to a record C$4.6 billion in December due to a weaker-than-expected performance in the energy sector in December. Overall exports fell 3.8 percent to C$46.3 billion, the largest drop since July 2017, driven by a 21.7 percent decline of exports of energy products. Overall, imports rose 1.6 percent, but energy imports were up 19.7 percent. For 2018 as a whole, exports increased 6.5 percent and imports rose 5.7 percent and the nation’s trade balance narrowed to C$21.7 billion from C$24.6 billion in 2017.
  • The United States economy added only 20,000 in February, but the nation’s jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4.0 percent in January. Manufacturers added 4,000 jobs last month. In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11 cents to $27.66 in February. Earnings increased 3.4 percent from February 2018 to February 2019 – the most significant improvement since 2009.
  • In a reading that was much better than analysts had expected, Statistics Canada announced last week that the Canadian economy added 55,900 jobs in February and that the nation’s jobless rate held steady at 5.8 percent. More than 46,000 new jobs were in the service sector while 9,500 were with goods-producing employers. Wages increased 2.2 percent between February 2018 and February 2019.
  • In other jobs-related news: 223,000 individuals for the first time filed for U.S. unemployment benefits during the week that ended March, down from 226,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also declined, as did the number of individuals who continued to receive benefits. That figure fell to 1.755 million for the week that ended Feb. 23 from 1.805 million the prior week. The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose, however.
  • According to a new report by the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturers are upbeat about the economy, with 89.5 percent of manufacturers optimistic about the future. The report marked the ninth consecutive quarter of record optimism.
  • U.S. construction spending fell 0.6 percent from November 2018 to December 2018 and the same amount from December 2017 to December 2018. The value of construction in 2018 was $1.3 trillion, 4.1 percent more than the $1.25 trillion spent in 2017.
  • In other economic news: U.S. labor productivity increased 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018; the number of new homes under construction in the United States increased 18.6 percent from December 2018 and January 2019, but fell 7.8 percent between January 2018 and January 2019; and the number of new homes sold in the United States increased 3.7 percent between November 2018 and December 2018 but fell 2.4 percent between December 2017 and December 2018.