March consumer and producer prices, February’s wholesale sales and JOLTS

regular monthly reports released this week included all three major indexes used by the BEA to adjust goods and services for inflation: March Consumer Price Index, the March Producer Price Index, and the March Import-Export Price Index, all of which were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics…in addition, the BLS also released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for February, while the Census Bureau released the February report on Wholesale Trade, Sales and Inventories…that report estimated that the seasonally adjusted value of wholesale sales was at $495.9 billion, up 1.0 percent (+/-0.5%) from January, after January sales were revised from $492.6 billion down to $490.9 billion, and that the adjusted value of wholesale inventories at the end of February was at $625.6 billion, also up 1.0% from January, after the value of wholesale inventories at the end of January was revised up from $619.05 billion to $619.6 billion…

Consumer Prices Slide 0.1% in March on Lower Prices for Energy and Clothing

the consumer price index decreased by 0.1% in March, as lower prices for energy and clothing more than offset higher prices for shelter and medical services….the Consumer Price Index Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the seasonally adjusted price index for urban consumers fell by 0.1% in March after it had risen by 0.2% in February, 0.5% in January, 0.1% in December, 0.4% in November, 0.1% in October, 0.5% in September, 0.4% in August, and 0.1% in July….the unadjusted CPI-U, which was set with prices of the 1982 to 1984 period equal to 100, actually rose from 248.991 in February to 249.554 in March, which left it statistically 2.236% higher than the 243.603 index reading of last March, which is reported as a 2.4% year over year increase…with lower priced energy being the major reason for the drop in the overall index, seasonally adjusted core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose by 0.2% for the month, with the unadjusted core index rising from 255.783 to 256.610, which put it 2.117% ahead of its year ago reading of 251.143, which is reported as a 2.1% increase…

the volatile seasonally adjusted energy price index fell by 2.8% in March, after it had risen by 0.1% in February, 3.0% in January, fallen by 0.2% in December, risen by 3.2% in November and by 2.0% in October, and is still 7.0% higher than in March a year ago….prices for energy commodities were 4.7% lower for the month, while the index for energy services decreased by 0.2%, after increasing by 1.4% in February….the decrease in the energy commodity index was due to a 4.9% decrease in the retail price of gasoline, the largest component, while the price of fuel oil fell 0.7%, whereas prices for other fuels, including propane, kerosene and firewood, rose by an average of 0.5%…however, the energy commodities index is still 11.3% above its year ago levels, with gasoline prices averaging 11.1% higher than they were a year ago…within energy services, the index for utility gas service fell 1.2% after rising by 4.7% in February, leaving utility gas priced 3.4% higher than it was a year ago, while the electricity price index was unchanged, after rising by 0.4% in February…the energy services price index is now 2.5% higher than last March, as electricity prices have also increased by 2.2% over that period…

the seasonally adjusted food price index rose 0.1% in March, after being unchanged in February, rising 0.2% in January, 0.2% in December, being unchanged in October and November, rising 0.1% in September, 0.1% in August, 0.2% in July, being unchanged in June, rising 0.2% in May, 0.2% in April, and 0.3% last March, as the index for food purchased for use at home was 0.1% higher in March while prices for food bought to eat away from home were also 0.1% higher, as prices at both fast food outlets and at full service restaurants rose 0.1%, while food prices at elementary and secondary schools were unchanged…

in the food at home categories, the price index for cereals and bakery products increased by 0.4%, as prices for bread rose 2.0% and prices for breakfast cereal rose 0.4%…the price index for the meats, poultry, fish, and eggs group was up 0.8% as egg prices rose 3.8% and processed fish and seafood prices rose 2.0%, while at the same time the index for dairy products was 0.3% higher despite a 1.3% decrease in the index for milk, as prices for ice cream rose 2.0% and cheese price rose 0.8%…on the other hand, the fruits and vegetables index was 0.7% lower on a 1.2% decrease in the price index for fresh fruits, a 1.1% decrease in the index for fresh vegetables and 2.6% drop in canned fruit prices….meanwhile, the beverages index was up 0.4% as coffee prices rose 1.0% and noncarbonated juices and drink prices rose 0.4%….lastly, prices in the ‘other foods at home’ category was 0.1% lower, as prices for fats and oils other than butter and margarine fell 1.2% and soup prices fell 3.0%….among food at home line items, only prices for eggs, which have risen 16.3% since last March, have seen a change greater than 10% over the past year…the itemized list for price changes in over 100 separate food items is included at the beginning of Table 2, which gives us a line item breakdown for prices of more than 200 CPI items overall

among the seasonally adjusted core components of the CPI, which rose by 0.2% in March after rising by 0.2% in February, 0.3% in January, 0.3% in December, 0.1% in November, 0.2% in October, 0.1% in September, 0.2% in August and by 0.1% in each of the prior 4 months, the composite of all goods less food and energy goods fell by 0.1%, while the more heavily weighted composite for all services less energy services was 0.3% higher….among the goods components, which will be used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis to adjust March retail sales for inflation in national accounts data, the index for household furnishings and supplies fell 0.1% as a 3.2% decrease in prices for window coverings and a 4.2% decrease in prices for infants furniture was mostly offset by a 3.0% increase in prices for cookware and tableware and a 1.7% increase for non-major appliances…the apparel price index was 0.6% lower after rising 1.5% in February and 1.7% in January on a 4.0% decrease in prices for women’s suits and separates and a 2.7% decrease in the index for men’s shirts and sweaters….at the same time, prices for transportation commodities other than fuel were 0.1% lower, as prices for new cars were unchanged while prices for used cars were down 0.3%…on the other hand, prices for medical care commodities were 0.1% higher on a 0.9% increase in non-prescription drug prices, while the recreational commodities index was 0.3% higher on a 2.1% jump the index for photographic equipment and supplies and a 1.3% increase in the index for sporting goods….meanwhile, the education and communication commodities index was 0.4% lower, on a 2.1% decrease in the index for telephone hardware, calculators, and other consumer information items and a 1.4% decrease in prices for computer software and accessories…lastly, a separate price index for alcoholic beverages was up 0.1%, while the price index for ‘other goods’ was down 0.2% on a 0.8% decrease in the index for miscellaneous personal goods..

within core services, which rose by 0.3%, the price index for shelter rose 0.4% on a 0.4% increase in rents and a 0.3% increase in homeowner’s equivalent rent, while costs for lodging away from home at hotels and motels jumped 2.3%, the sub-index for water, sewers and trash collection rose 0.2%, and other household operation costs were on average 0.2% higher….meanwhile, the index for medical care services was up 0.5%, as dentists services rose 1.2% and hospital services were priced 0.6% higher…at the same time, the transportation services index was 0.2% higher on a 3.0% increase in car and truck rentals and 1.0% higher automobile service club fees….on the other hand, the recreation services index fell 0.1% as admissions to sporting events fell 3.4%, while the index for education and communication services was 0.2% lower, as landline telephone services fell 0.8% internet and electronic information services fell 1.0%…lastly, the index for other personal services was up 0.7% as the index for checking and other bank services rose 4.7%…among core line items, the index for clocks, lamps, and decorator items, which has fallen 10.2% over the past year, prices for televisions, which are now 14.3% cheaper than a year ago, and the index for audio equipment, which is now 17.6% lower than last March, have seen prices drop by more than 10% over the past year, while nothing has seen prices rise by a double digit magnitude over that span…

Producer Prices Up 0.3% in March on Higher Wholesale Foods, Core Services

the seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand rose 0.3% in March, as prices for both finished wholesale goods and margins of final services providers increased by 0.3%…this followed a February that indicated the PPI was 0.2% higher, with prices for finished wholesale goods down 0.1%, while margins of final services providers increased by 0.3%, and a January report that indicated the PPI was 0.4% higher, with prices for finished goods up 0.7% while final demand for services rose 0.3%….on an unadjusted basis, producer prices are now 3.0% higher than a year earlier, with the core producer price index, which excludes food, energy and trade services, 2.9% higher for the year, up from the year over year figures of 2.8% for the PPI and 2.7% for core that were indicated last month….

as noted, the price index for final demand for goods, aka ‘finished goods’, was up 0.3% in March, after being down 0.1% in February, up 0.4% in January, and rising a revised 0.1% in December, and 0.8% in November…the price index for wholesale energy was down 2.1% in January after falling 0.5% in February but rising 3.4% in January, while the price index for wholesale foods rose 2.2%, and the index for final demand for core wholesale goods (ex food and energy) was 0.3% higher…driving the wholesale energy price index lower was a 3.7% decrease in the wholesale price of gasoline and 10.1% lower wholesale prices for home heating oil, while wholesale residential natural gas prices were unchanged…wholesale foods prices, meanwhile, rose on 31.5% higher prices for fresh and dry vegetables, a 39.9% jump in wholesale prices for fresh eggs, and 13.4% higher wholesale dairy prices….among wholesale core goods, prices for household appliances rose 0.9% while the wholesale price index for mining machinery and equipment rose 2.4%…

at the same time, the index for final demand for services rose 0.3% for the third month in a row, after being unchanged in December, rising a revised 0.1% in November, 0.5% in October, and by 0.2% in both August and September, as the March index for final demand for trade services rose 0.2%, the index for final demand for transportation and warehousing services rose 0.6%, and the index for final demand for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing services was 0.3% higher….among trade services, seasonally adjusted margins for computer hardware, software, and supplies retailers rose 5.2% and margins for machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesalers rose 2.9%… among transportation and warehousing services, margins for rail transportation of freight and mail were 1.3% higher and margins for air transportation of passengers rose 1.6%…in the core final demand for services index, the index for cable and satellite subscriber services rose 3.5% while the index for arrangement of cruises and tours rose 3.0%..

this report also showed the price index for intermediate processed goods was 0.3% lower in March, after rising 0.7% in both January and February, and by a revised 0.3% in December, and a revised 0.8% in November….the price index for intermediate energy goods fell 1.3%, as prices for industrial natural gas fell 5.6% and prices for natural gas sold to electric utilities fell 18.0%, while prices for intermediate processed foods and feeds rose 1.4% as the processed meat index rose 2.3%…meanwhile, the core price index for processed goods for intermediate demand less food and energy was 0.3% higher on a 4.4% increase in the index for building paper and board and a 2.6% increase in prices for secondary nonferrous metals….prices for intermediate processed goods are now 4.6% higher than in March a year ago, now the 16th consecutive year over year increase, after 16 months of negative year over year comparisons, as intermediate goods prices fell every month from July 2015 through March 2016….

meanwhile, the price index for intermediate unprocessed goods fell 4.8% in March, after rising 2.8% in February, 0.9% in January, and a revised 1.5% in December and 2.6% in November…that was as the price index for crude energy goods fell 11.6% as raw natural gas prices dropped 32.1% even as crude oil prices rose 5.0%, while at the same time the index for unprocessed foodstuffs and feedstuffs fell 1.0%, as prices for slaughter hogs fell 14.7% and prices for slaughter steers and heifers fell 5.0%…on the other hand,  the index for core raw materials other than food and energy materials rose 1.5%, as prices for iron and steel scrap rose 4.3%…this raw materials index is still up by 4.2% from a year ago, in contrast to the year over year increase of 13.4% that we saw last March…

lastly, the price index for services for intermediate demand rose 0.3% in March after rising 0.5% in February, 0.1% in January, and rising a revised 0.1 in December and 0.2% in November….the index for trade services for intermediate demand was up 1.7%, as margins for machinery and equipment parts and supplies wholesalers rose 3.6% while margins for intermediate wholesalers of building materials, paint, and hardware rose 2.6%…the index for transportation and warehousing services for intermediate demand rose 0.5%, as the intermediate index for rail transportation of freight and mail rose 1.3%…meanwhile, the core price index for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing for intermediate demand was 0.1% higher, as the index for legal services rose 0.8% while the index for radio advertising sales rose 5.8%….over the 12 months ended in March, the year over year price index for services for intermediate demand, which has never turned negative on an annual basis, is now 3.2% higher than it was a year ago…

Job Openings, Hiring, and Layoffs Fall in February; Hiring, Job Quitting Inches Up

the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for February from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that seasonally adjusted job openings decreased by 176,000, from 6,228,000 in January to 6,052,000 in February, after January job openings were revised down from the originally reported 6,312,000 …however, February’s jobs openings were still 7.7% higher than the 5,618,000 job openings reported in February a year ago, as the job opening ratio expressed as a percentage of the employed fell from 4.0% in January to 3.9% in February, which was still up from the 3.7% rate of February a year ago…(details on job openings by industry and region can be viewed in Table 1)…like most BLS releases, the press release for this report is easy to understand and also refers us to the associated table for the data cited, which are linked at the end of the release…

the JOLTS release also reports on labor turnover, which consists of hires and job separations, which in turn is further divided into layoffs and discharges, those who quit, and ‘other separations’, which includes retirements and deaths….in February, seasonally adjusted new hires totaled 5,507,000, down by 67,000 from the revised 5,574,000 who were hired or rehired in January, as the hiring rate as a percentage of all employed fell from 3.8% in January to 3.7% in February, which was still up from the 3.6% hiring rate in February a year earlier (details of hiring by sector since October are in table 2)….meanwhile, total separations fell by 127,000, from 5,319,000 in January to 5,192,000 in February, as the separations rate as a percentage of the employed fell from 3.6% to 3.5%, which was also up from 3.4% in February a year ago (see details in table 3)…subtracting the 5,192,000 total separations from the total hires of 5,507,000 would imply an increase of 315,000 jobs in February, a bit less than the revised payroll job increase of 326,000 for February reported in the March establishment survey last week and well within the expected +/-115,000 margin of error in these incomplete samplings

breaking down the seasonally adjusted job separations, the BLS founds that 3,210,000 of us voluntarily quit our jobs in February, up from the revised 3,191,000 who quit their jobs in January, while the quits rate, widely watched as an indicator of worker confidence, remained at 2.2% of total employment, which was up from 2.1% year earlier (see details in table 4)….in addition to those who quit, another 1,647,000 were either laid off, fired or otherwise discharged in February, down by 137,000 from the revised 1,784,000 who were discharged in January, as the discharges rate fell from 1.2% to 1.1% of all those who were employed during the month, while it was unchanged from the discharges rate of a year earlier….meanwhile, other separations, which includes retirements and deaths, were at 334,000 in February, down from 344,000 in January, for an ‘other separations rate’ of 0.2%, the same as in January and as in February of last year….both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted details by industry and by region on hires and job separations, and on job quits and discharges can be accessed using the links to tables at the bottom of the press release…    


(the above is the synopsis that accompanied my regular sunday morning links emailing, which in turn was mostly selected from my weekly blog post on the global glass onion…if you’d be interested in receiving my weekly emailing of selected links, most from the aforementioned GGO posts, contact me…)   

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