Last week's economic data included releases on construction spending and labor-related reports including ADP Payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls, national unemployment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
Construction Spending Increases in February
February construction spending grew by 0.80 percent from January's reading of -0.50 percent. Analysts expected a reading of + 1.00 percent. Housing industry pros and analysts continue monitoring construction spending for indications of future construction projects. Construction spending was boosted by unseasonably warm weather in regions typically subject to cold winter climates.
U.S. homes are in high demand despite rapidly rising home prices due to short supplies of available homes; industry leaders contend that building more homes is the only remedy for the imbalance between would-be home buyers and low inventories of homes for sale. Home builders repeatedly cite shortages of buildable lots and skilled labor as obstacles to building more homes.
Job Growth Dips as New Jobless Claims and Unemployment Rate Falls
ADP reported that 263,000 private-sector jobs were created in March as compared to revised readings of 245,000 jobs created in February and expectations of 170,000 jobs created in March Private-sector employers were encouraged by potential reductions in taxes, regulations, infrastructure and improvements.
Non-farm payrolls dropped significantly in March; the Commerce Department reported only 98,000 new public and private sector jobs added in March as compared to expectations of 185,000 jobs added and 219,000 public and private-sector jobs added in February.
Economists said that rapid growth of jobs seen in the last few years was not sustainable and cited severe reductions in retail jobs as contributing to the drop in the Non-farm payrolls reading for March. The steep drop in job creation could cause the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising the federal funds rate in June, but this is far from certain depending on economic readings for April and May.
National unemployment fell to 4.50 percent in March against expectations of 4.70 percent and February's reading of 4.70 percent.
New jobless claims fell to 234,000 claims as compared to expectations of 251,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 259,000 claims. Lower initial jobless claims despite the steep drop in job growth suggests that workers are leaving the workforce and are ineligible to file new claims or that the drop in jobs growth was a "correction" and future jobs growth reports may not show such sharp adjustments.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Rates for fixed-rate mortgages were lower last week. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages fell; the average rate for a 30-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.20 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgaged dropped three basis points to 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked up by one basis point to an average of 3.19 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
This week's scheduled economic reports include readings on inflation, core inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates will also be released.