There were two important reports on the U.S. economy released this morning. First, the latest job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that there were 6.052 million job openings in America in February (lagged release). That was much worse than expected but still relatively close to the all-time high hit last September. Most of the new job openings in February were found in the finance and insurance (+69,000) and state and local government education (+31,000) arenas, while job openings decreased in the accommodation and food services (-91,000), construction (-56,000), and wholesale trade (-38,000) sectors. The number of unemployed Americans per job opening rose slightly in February, and the ratio of quits to layoffs and discharges improved. Both measures remain near the best levels on record and signal an overall tight labor market with U.S. workers increasingly willing to give up their current job security for better employment opportunities (upward pressure on wages).
Elsewhere, consumer confidence cooled this month, according to new data from the University of Michigan. Specifically, the headline sentiment gauge fell to 97.8 in April, a much larger decline than anticipated but still one of the highest readings of the current business cycle. Under the hood, views of both current and future economic conditions deteriorated this month, with much of the weakness due to President Trump’s trade policies. Indeed, more than one in four surveyed Americans made a reference to White House trade policy this month, and almost every comment was negative. Consumer respondents with a pessimistic outlook on trade policy were also more likely to predict a higher inflation rate in the year ahead. The expectation of rising interest rates appeared to weigh on sentiment as well this month, but Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin added that “overall, the data are consistent with a growth rate of 2.7% in consumption from mid-2018 to mid-2019.”
Sources: Econoday, Bloomberg, ZH, U.S. DoL, UoM, FRBSLPost author: Charles Couch