July 2012

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THEMREPORT.COM MReport Goes 'Viral' 1. U.S. Economy Adds Only 69K Payroll gains for March and Jobs, Fewest in a Year The economy added just 69,000 jobs in May com- pared with a revised 77,000 in April, down from the originally reported 115,000, the Labor Department reported. The closely watched unemploy- ment rate inched up to 8.2 percent—a function of an increase in the nation's labor force to the highest level ever. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected the number of jobs to increase by 150,000 and the unem- ployment rate to remain at 8.1 percent. But while the jobs total was certainly disappointing for a president seeking re-election, the White House found a glimmer in the employment data—the result of a survey of 60,000 households—which put the number of people em- ployed in May at 142,287,000: the highest level since January 2009 when President Obama took office. That said, the balance of the report was dismal. Not only did payroll jobs drop to the lowest level since May 2011, but average weekly hours also dropped to 34.4 hours (from 34.5 hours), the lowest level since November, and average hourly earnings fell to $19.70 from $19.71, which computes to an overall decline in weekly earnings affecting consumer purchasing power. 8 | THE M REPORT April were revised, subtracting 11,000 from the last pub- lished numbers for March and 38,000 from the preliminary report for April. At 34.4 hours, the average workweek remained below the level when the recession began in December 2007 (34.6) but above the 34.2 hours when President Obama took office. While the number of people employed rose, so did the number of people counted as unemployed (meeting the definitional test of out of work, available for work, and looking for work). There were, accord- ing to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 12.72 million people unemployed in May, up from 12.5 million in April, the first increases since February. The average duration of unem- ployment rose to 39.7 weeks, from 39.1, the first increase since November. Part of the reason for the increase in both unemploy- ment and the unemployment rate was the number of "re- entrants" to the labor force, 3,439,000, the highest since November, suggesting im- proving confidence in the abil- ity to find a job or perhaps a consequence of Congressional action cutting off unemploy- ment insurance benefits. A sharp drop in construction jobs—28,000—led payrolls down. The decline in construc- tion payrolls was itself led by a reduction in "heavy and civil engineering construc- tion"—essentially infrastructure work and specialty trade April were up 9.9 percent from April 2011, the seventh straight month of year-over-year increases. The increase came despite the survey results from the National Association of Home Builders, showing buyer traffic—new home shoppers— had fallen in April to its lowest level in four months. Industry insight from Five Star Economist Mark Lieberman garnered more than half-a-million online viewers this month, and we're revealing the analyst's top five recent headlines. contractors, primarily resi- dential workers. Government shed 13,000 jobs—evenly split among federal, state, and local governments. Even with the disappointing numbers, the report continued a string of increases in payroll jobs—the 20th straight month of job gains—but fell woefully short of population growth. In the 20 months, the over-16 population has grown 4.6 million, while the number of payroll jobs is up 3.1 million. To keep up with population growth, though, the economy has to add between 140,000 and 150,000 jobs per month. The unemployment rate for the prime home-buying age cohort—25 to 34—rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April, while the unemployment rate for those over 55, generally the prime home-selling age cohort, in- creased to 6.5 percent in May from 6.3 percent in April. 2. New Home Sales Climb 3.3%, 3. Housing Permits Retreat as Starts Advance Housing permits dipped in April for the first time in four months, according to the Census Bureau. In a report delivered jointly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), housing starts improved in spite of the decline in permits. However, both indicators remained far above levels seen one year prior. The significance of April's month- over-month increase in starts was further exaggerated by downward revisions to March numbers, and the survey showed 715,000 permits is- sued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in April—compared to an expected 725,000—and 717,000 starts compared with an expected 690,000. 4. Builder Confidence Hits five points in May to 29, its highest level since the same month in 2007, based on findings from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Economists had expected the index to edge up to 26 in May, and the recent month-over-month increase represents the most aggres- sive progression since April 2009. Additionally, the total index in May was up 13 points from May 2011, the strongest year-over-year gain since April 2004. All three components of the index—current sales, sales six months out, and buyer traf- fic—showed strong increases in May, with buyer traffic and current sales conditions each rising five points, while the projection of sales six months ahead rose three points. 5. Banks Target Tight Lending Standards With an upsurge in demand, Five-Year High Builder confidence jumped banks resumed tighter lend- ing standards for residential mortgages, according to the Federal Reserve's quarterly survey on lending standards. According to the survey, a net 30.2 percent of banks surveyed in the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey saw increased demand in the first quarter for traditional mortgage loans compared with a net 3.8 percent reporting stronger demand in the fourth quarter. The net percentage tighten- ing standards was far lower than it had been immediately after the onset of the recession when a net 52.9 percent of loan officers reported tightening standards on traditional resi- dential loans and 84.2 percent reported tightening standards on non-traditional loans. Beating Forecasts New homes sales rose 3.3 percent in April to a season- ally adjusted annual rate of 343,000, based on num- bers from the Commerce Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The findings best economists' forecasts, which predicted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 335,000 new home sales for the month. New home sales in Are you an origination news junkie? 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