Total U.S. construction spending during February was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $967.2 billion. That is 0.1% below the revised January estimate, and 2.1% above the February 2014 estimate.
Private residential construction spending was at an annual rate of $349.9 billion, which is 0.2% below the prior month and 2.1% below the same month a year ago.
Private nonresidential construction was at an annual rate of $348.4 billion, which is 0.5% above the prior month and 5.9% above the same month a year ago.
Public construction spending was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $268.9 billion, which is 0.8% below the prior month and 3.1% above the same month a year ago.
U.S. consumer confidence decreased to a reading of 101.3 (1985=100) in March, as published this morning by The Conference Board. This compares to a revised reading of 98.8 in February.
The Present Situation Index component decreased to 112.1 from 109.1, while the Expectations Index component increased to 90.0 from 96.0.
Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said: “Consumer confidence improved in March after retreating in February. This month’s increase was driven by an improved short-term outlook for both employment and income prospects; consumers were less upbeat about business conditions. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined for the second consecutive month, suggesting that growth may have softened in Q1, and doesn’t appear to be gaining any significant momentum heading into the spring months.”
The U.S. consumer sentiment index, reported by the University of Michigan, decreased to 93.0 in March from 95.4 in February.
The harsh winter weather and the small rebound in gas prices caused some slippage in consumer confidence since the start of the year. Importantly, most of the recent variation was among lower income households, whose budgets are more sensitive to higher utility costs and disruptions in work hours. Households with incomes in the middle and top thirds of the distribution, in contrast, recorded gains in confidence in the March survey. Expanding job opportunities as well as more favorable wage gains have meant that consumer spending will rebound during the balance of the year. While there is a widespread expectation that interest rates will begin to rise later in the year, few consumers anticipated that the size of the increases will dampen their credit sensitive purchase plans.
The recent trend:
U.S. S&P Case-Shiller Home Prices were little change in January, with the 20-city composite index decreasing by less than 0.1% (not seasonally adjusted). Year over year, the 20-City Composite is up 4.6%.
The national house price level is now roughly equal to where it stood in November 2004.
Of the 20 cities tracked in the index, Los Angeles has had the greatest increase in home prices since 2000, while Detroit has been the only city where prices have declined over the past 15 years.
From a year ago, house prices have increased the most in Denver, where they rose 8.4%. Washington D.C. has had the slowest rate of annual increase, rising only 1.3%.
Dallas and Denver are the only cities whose prices have increased beyond their pre-recession peak. Las Vegas remains the furthest below its peak.
The U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency saw its national house prices increase 0.3% in January (not seasonally adjusted), and increasing 5.1% from a year ago.
The FHFA HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages either sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The U.S. index is roughly the same as its December 2005 index level.
Of the 9 different geographic census divisions that FHFA tracks, house prices have increased the most year over year in the Pacific and increased the least in the Middle Atlantic region.
U.S. disposable personal income increased 0.4% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $13.32 trillion. This increase follows a 0.5% increase in January, and leaves disposable personal income up 4.3% from a year ago.
Personal outlays for the month totaled an annualized $12.55 trillion, a 0.1% increase, leaving personal outlays up 3.4% from the year prior.
Historically, the change in outlays is far less volatile than the change in disposable income.
Personal savings, which is disposable personal income less personal outlays, increased to $768.7 billion from $728.7 billion.
The personal savings rate increased to 5.77% from 5.49%.
In February, the unemployment rate decreased in 26 U.S. states, increased in 6 states, and was unchanged in 18 states.
The unemployment rate is higher than a year ago in 4 states: Louisiana (6.7% vs 5.4%), South Carolina (6.6% vs 6.1%), Tennessee (6.6% vs 6.5%), and North Dakota (2.9% vs 2.7%).
Recall that the national jobless rate in February was 5.5%.
Real gross domestic product increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014, the U.S. BEA published this morning. This was the third estimate for Q4, and the headline figure is essentially unchanged from the prior estimate. The GDP growth rate in Q3 was 5.0% annualized.
Components of GDP by their contributions to GDP growth in Q4:
- Personal consumption expenditures: +2.98%
- Private investment: +0.61%
- Net Exports: -1.03%
- Government Consumption: -0.35%
Nominal GDP was at an annualized $17.7037 trillion in Q4, while real (inflation adjusted, 2009 chained) GDP was $16.2947 trillion.
Real GDP was up 2.4% from Q4 2013.
U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ending March 21 were a seasonally adjusted 282k, down from the prior week’s revised reading of 291k. Not seasonally adjusted, jobless claims for the week were 247k.
Individual states that had changes in claims of more than 1k (not seasonally adjusted):
The 4-week moving average of initial jobless claims was 297k.
The number of unemployment insurance recipients, or continuing claims, for regular state programs was 2.416 million, down from the previous week’s revised reading of 2.422 million.
The insured unemployment rate, which is the number of unemployment insurance recipients as a share of covered employment, was 1.81%, down from 1.82% the week prior.
89.95% of all U.S. jobs are covered by state unemployment insurance programs.
Of the 8.705 million Americans currently unemployed, 27.75% receive unemployment insurance.
Jobless claims and the unemployment rate: