Today’s New Residential Construction Report showed mixed results for November with a slight slip in single family permits and significant declines to total and single family starts but with gains to total permits.
Single family housing permits, the most leading of indicators, dropped 0.2% from October to 565K single family units (SAAR), and increased 25.3% above the level seen in November 2011 but still remained an astonishing 68.58% below the peak in September 2005.
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Single family housing starts declined a whopping 4.1% from October to 565K units (SAAR), but rose 22.8% above the level seen in November 2011 but still remained 69.01% below the peak set in early 2006.
Today, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their latest Housing Market Index (HMI) showing continued improvement in December with the composite HMI index rising to 47 while the "buyer traffic" index improved to 36, a level not seen since early 2006.
While all indicators have made truly spectacular improvements this year, it's important to note that conditions still remain fairly distressed by historic standards.
Although, looking at the data, it is fairly clear that the last few months of results indicate a major change in builder sentiment likely coming as a result of improvements in confidence given the notable rise in buyer traffic, reduced inventory and a more balanced monthly supply.
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey consists of a series of diffusion indices distilled from a monthly survey of New York regional manufacturing executives and seeks to identify trends across 22 different current and future manufacturing related activities.
Today’s report showed a slight decline for current assessments of manufacturing activity and an improvement to future assessments with the current activity index falling to a notably weak level of -8.1 while future activity improved to 18.66.
Current prices paid rose to 16.13 while current new orders weakened to -3.7 as assessments of future new orders improved to 32.26.
Today, the Federal Reserve released their monthly read of industrial production and capacity utilization showing notable increase in November with total industrial production increasing 1.05% since October and rising 2.51% above the level seen in November 2011.
Capacity utilization also jumped 0.91% from October and climbing 0.93% above the level seen in November of 2011 to stand at 78.42%
It's important to recognize that though the "recovery" is well over two years old, both industrial production and capacity utilization are notably below the peaks set in late 2007.
Be sure to bookmark the "Scary Unemployment Dashboard"... it's live.
Today's employment situation report showed that conditions for the long term unemployed improved in November remaining epically distressed by historic standards.
Workers unemployed 27 weeks or more decreased to 4.786 million or 40.1% of all unemployed workers while the median number of weeks unemployed dropped to 19.0 weeks and the average stay on unemployment declined to 40.0 weeks.
Looking at the chart above you can see that today’s sorry situation far exceeds even the conditions seen during the double-dip recessionary period of the early 1980s, long considered by economists to be the worst period of unemployment since the Great Depression.
Today’s Employment Situation report showed that in November “total unemployment” including all marginally attached workers declined slightly to 14.4% while the traditionally reported unemployment rate also declined to 7.7%.
The traditional unemployment rate is calculated from the monthly household survey results using a fairly explicit definition of “unemployed” (essentially unemployed and currently looking for full time employment) leaving many workers to be considered effectively “on the margin” either employed in part time work when full time is preferred or simply unemployed and no longer looking for work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers “marginally attached” workers (including discouraged workers) and persons who have settled for part time employment to be “underutilized” labor.
The broadest view of unemployment would include both traditionally unemployed workers and all other underutilized workers.
To calculate the “total” rate of unemployment we would simply use this larger group rather than the smaller and more restrictive “unemployed” group used in the traditional unemployment rate calculation.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications.
The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases.
The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) decreased 2 basis point to 3.43% since last week while the purchase application volume increased a slight 0.10% and the refinance application volume increased 6% over the same period.
Clearly, the Federal Reserve's QE3 announcement and implementation has had a notable effect on mortgage rates in recent weeks continuing to lift refinance application activity and possibly helping to establish a base of sorts to purchase applications. ( Continue… )
Today’s jobless claims report showed declines for both initial and continued jobless claims as initial claims dropped below the closely watched 400K level.
Seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined by 25,000 to 370,000 claims from a revised 395,000 claims for the prior week while seasonally adjusted “continued” claims declined by 100,000 claims to 3.205 million resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 2.5%.
Since the middle of 2008 though, two federal government sponsored “extended” unemployment benefit programs (the “extended benefits” and “EUC 2008” from recent legislation) have been picking up claimants that have fallen off of the traditional unemployment benefits rolls.
Currently there are some 2.04 million people receiving federal “extended” unemployment benefits.
Taken together with the latest 2.83 million people that are currently counted as receiving traditional continued unemployment benefits, there are 4.88 million people on state and federal unemployment rolls.
Private staffing and business services firm ADP released the latest installment of their National Employment Report Wednesday indicating that the situation for private employment in the U.S. improved in November as private employers added 118,000 jobs in the month bringing the total employment level 1.62% above the level seen in November 2012.
Perusing the rest of the data in the ADP dataset you can see the the economy is currently showing the most growth for small to mid-sized service providing jobs with goods-producing jobs remaining near trough levels.
Look for Friday’s BLS Employment Situation Report to likely show somewhat similar trends.
Last month I reported on a relatively new recession probability indicator (… the “markov switching” series recently introduced to the Fed FRED/Blytic) that was giving a pretty clear, though preliminary, indication of probable recession.
While I noted that the series was highly revised, I pointed out that even taking into account the revisions, the series was giving a recession signal since using just the "maximum" reported values (values that had been all been revised lower) the reporting 20% probability was very unusual and typically associated to oncoming trouble.
In the latest release of the data we find that not only has the September (... there is a lag) value come in at a relatively low level of 2.94% probability of recession, the August number has now been revised down from 19.6% to 3.8%.
It's important to note though that the point of my prior post was to highlight just the "maximum" reported values and while the latest release revises down the 19.6% and reports an additional low probability for the latest month, it makes no difference... the fact remains that this series has NOT given such a significant over estimate of recession without there being a probable recession ahead.
Now clearly, there could always be a first time... this is just estimated data... but the prior 19.6% reported figure clearly argues for following this series very closely in the coming months.