Last week’s economic news included several good signs for U.S. Labor Markets with higher than expected readings for private and public sector job creation. The Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise the target federal funds range, and inflation rose. Mortgage rates held steady and pending home sales rose.
Private and Public Sector Jobs Post Unexpected Gains
ADP, which tracks private-sector job growth, showed a gain of 246,000 jobs in January against expectations of 168,000 new jobs and December’s reading of 151,000 private sector jobs created. Analysts said 208,000 of jobs added were service-related jobs. January’s Non-Farm Payrolls, which is issued by the Labor Department and includes private and public sector jobs, also posted higher than expected job gains with 227,000 new jobs in January as compared to 197,000 new jobs expected and December’s reading of 157,000 new jobs. Retail, construction, financial and restaurant industries led job growth. The jump in construction hiring could indicate that home builders will expand construction in an effort to ease short inventories of homes for sale.
The national unemployment rate rose to 4.70 percent in January and matched analysts’ expectations based on December’s reading of 4.60 percent. New jobless claims were lower than expected with a reading of 246,000 new claims against expectations of 254,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 260,000 initial jobless claims.
Mortgage Rates Little Changed; Pending Home Sales Up
Freddie Mac reported little change in mortgage rates last week. Interest rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.19 percent and were unchanged from the prior week. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose by one basis point to 3.41 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose three basis points to 3.23 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
In related news, the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee decided not to rate the Fed’s target rate that is currently 0.50 to 0.75 percent. Fed benchmarks for the economy include an unemployment rate of 5.00 percent or lower, but the annual growth inflation benchmark of 2.00 percent has not been met. January’s inflation rate rose by 0.10 percent above December’s reading of 0.0 percent.
Pending home sales increased in January with an increase of 1.60 percent; this exceeded December’s negative reading of -2.50 percent in December. Analysts said that the growth in pending home sales, which represents sales under contract that have not closed, reflects ongoing high demand for homes. Pending sales also suggest future volume for completed sales and mortgages.
Consumer confidence lagged in January to an index reading of 111.80 as compared to an expected reading of 112.90 and December’s reading of 113.30. December’s reading was the highest in 15 years. Analysts cited post-election uncertainty as contributing to consumer concerns.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims along with readings on job openings and consumer sentiment.