News & Events

Economic Advisor: March 14, 2018
March 14, 2018


Employment enjoyed solid growth, but also layoffs surged. Meanwhile, consumer borrowing continued to grow, but at a slower pace.

Employment Situation

The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, with key job growth sectors including construction, retail, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial service, and mining, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. This kept the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1 percent, with the total population of unemployed Americans essentially unchanged at 6.7 million people.

All told, the labor force grew by 806,000 people during February. This helped the labor force participation rate — the percentage of employable Americans either working or actively looking for work — to grow by 0.3 percent to hit 63 percent.

Average hourly earnings rose by four cents in February to hit $26.75 following January’s increase of seven cents. Over the year, average hourly earnings have grown by 2.6 percent, or 68 cents.

“All the ingredients are in place for wages to accelerate, but it’s going to take time,” Moody’s Analytics Inc. Economist Ryan Sweet told the Bloomberg news service. “There could still be some more shadow slack. As the unemployment rate goes lower, wage pressures are going to build.”

Initial Jobless Claims

In more recent employment statistics, first-time claims for unemployment benefits filed by the newly unemployed during the week ending March 3 bounced back up to 231,000, a substantial gain of 21,000 claims from the prior week’s total of 210,000, according to last week’s report from the Employment and Training Administration.

The four-week moving average, which is considered a more stable measure of jobless claims, grew to 222,500, an increase of 2,000 claims from the preceding week’s average of 220,500 claims.

This latest report marked the 157th straight week that initial claims have come in below the 300,000-claim level, which economists consider an indicator of a growing job market. The Administration added that it continues to experience hurricane-related reporting difficulties in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Consumer Credit

Consumer borrowing continued to grow, but at a slower pace, with consumer credit expanding 4.3 percent during January to hit a total of $3.855 trillion for the month, according to last week’s report from the Federal Reserve. The rate of growth was down from a six percent increase in December and a 9.8 percent gain in November.

Much of January’s tapering could be chalked up to the small, 0.8 percent increase in revolving debt, which notched up to $1.029 trillion. Essentially, credit card borrowing (revolving debt) had grown by 7.2 percent in December and 13.4 percent in November.

Meanwhile, non-revolving debt, such as car and student loans, grew by 5.6 percent to hit $2.825 trillion. This was more on track with December’s 5.6 percent gain and November’s 8.5 percent growth.

This week, we can expect:

  • Monday — Federal budget for February from the Treasury Department.
  • Tuesday — Consumer Price Index for February from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Wednesday — Retail sales for February and business inventories for January from the Census Bureau; Producer Price Index for January from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Thursday — Initial jobless claims for last week from the Employment and Training Administration; import prices for February from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Friday — Housing starts and building permits for February from the Census Bureau; industrial production and capacity utilization for February from the Federal Reserve.


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