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November 23, 2016

Last Week's Economic News in Review
November 23, 2016
Housing starts rocketed to a nine-year high, while retail sales exceeded market expectations and layoffs dropped to their lowest point in 43 years.

Housing Starts

Starts on new housing construction hit their highest point since the height of the housing boom in 2007. Starts on private housing in October shot up 25.5 percent, to reach an annual rate of 1.32 million, according to last week’s joint release from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Compared to the same period last year, October’s rate for overall housing starts was 23.3 percent higher than October 2015’s rate of 1.07 million. Starts on single-family homes grew 10.7 percent to hit a rate of 869,000.

“Housing starts are being driven higher by improved household growth as the economy promotes further job and income gains,” Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. Chief Economist David Berson told U.S. News & World Report. “With improved employment and income prospects, millennials are an expanding portion of housing demand as they move out of their parents’ homes — increasingly to form families.”

Construction permits issued for private housing ticked up 0.3 percent in October to an annual rate of 1.22 million, which was 4.6 percent over October 2015’s rate of 1.17 million. Permits for single-family homes grew 2.7 percent in October to a rate of 762,000, which was 2.7 percent higher than September’s 742,000 permits.

Retail Sales

Retail sales for October grew 0.8 percent to hit $465.9 billion, beating marketing expectations of 0.6 percent, and sales for the August-through-October period increased 3.3 percent, the Census Bureau reported last week. Compared annually, October’s sales were 4.3 percent higher than October 2015’s and notably sales in October for non-store retailers (such as online businesses or kiosks) jumped up 12.9 percent over their October 2015 sales.

Key performers were sales for gasoline stations, which grew 2.2 percent; sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, which increased 1.3 percent; building material and garden stores, which gained 1.1 percent; and food and beverage retailers, which enjoyed a 0.9 percent gain.

“The consumer is in very good shape and is poised to continue to lead the economy forward based on rising wages, low unemployment and clean balance sheets,” Amherst Pierpont Chief Economist Stephen Stanley told the Wall Street Journal.

Initial Jobless Claims

First-time claims filed for unemployment benefits by the recently laid off during the week ending November 12 tumbled to 235,000, a decline of 19,000 claims from the preceding week’s total of 254,000, the Employment and Training Administration reported last week. This is the lowest level for lay-offs since November 24, 1973’s total of 233,000.

The four-week moving average — considered a more stable measure of layoffs — fell to 253,500, a drop of 6,500 claims from the prior week’s average of 260,000.

This marked the 89th straight week of initial jobless claims below 300,000 — a level that economists say indicates a growing job market — and the longest streak since 1970.

Blogs for November 2016



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