Gross Domestic Product 

  • The U.S. economy grew at a 2 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter of 2019.

  • A 2 percent growth rate is by no means robust, but it does represent a stable long-term rate.

About this Indicator: Gross domestic product, or GDP, is the total market value of all goods and services produced in an economy over a year.  In short, it is the ultimate measure of an economy. When tracked over time we can see if an economy is relatively strong or weakening.

 

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2019 Q2 Third estimate.

Updated: Oct. 21, 2019

Components of Gross Domestic Product Change 

  • Overall GDP grew at a 2 percent annualized growth rate in the second quarter of 2019.
     

  • This modest growth rate is thanks to a strong showing by consumers who boosted expenditures by 3 percent during the quarter.

  • Government expenditure was also positive helping boost GDP.
     

  • The big concern is the drop in private domestic investment. If the private sector is shying away from major investments, then there could be some real concern about the economy's overall health.

About this Indicator: GDP is made up of several components (personal consumption, private investment, net exports and government expenditures). This chart illustrates how much each of these components contributed to economic growth last quarter. In a healthy economy, we will also see positive contributions from all sectors.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2019 Q2 third estimate. 

Updated: Oct. 21, 2019

Monthly Employment Change

  • Employment growth surged in December, adding 312,000 jobs.
     

  • Despite monthly fluctuations, the economy continues to add jobs at an impressive clip.

About this Indicator: A growing economy is one that will add jobs. This chart tracks how many jobs are being added to the national economy each month. The data is seasonally adjusted to remove the seasonal variations we typically see in employment trends.

 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, CES, seasonally adjusted

Updated Jan. 20, 2019

Employment Change by Industry

For the Year Ending in Nov.

  • Professional Business Services remains the leading job creator adding 579,000 jobs last year.

  • Health Care and Education added 521,000 jobs.

  • Retail employment bounced back adding 76,00 jobs last year. This sector had lost jobs in the prior year.

  • Construction and manufacturing continue to be strong with employment up significantly in both industries.
     

  • Information is the only industry that suffered a significant decline losing 21,000 jobs. 

About this Indicator: Employment growth is never going to be consistent across industries. This indicator shows which industries are driving employment growth and which are stagnating, or declining.

The bars to the right show the employment growth in the most recent year. The bars to the left show growth in the prior year.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, CES

Jan. 20, 2019

Inventories

  • The inventories to sales ratio rose slightly to 1.35 in October.
     

  • Retailers are carrying enough product to cover 1.35 months of sales.
     

  • Despite the rise, retailers are keeping inventories low. Low inventories could indicate a lack of confidence in the economy in the longer-term.​

About this Indicator: The inventories to sales ratio is a good way to gage business confidence, particularly in the retail sector. This ratio of inventories to sales could also be interpreted as the number of months-worth of product retailers have on hand. In other words, a value of 1.35 means retailers, on average, have enough product in inventory to cover 1.35 months-worth of sales. When this figure is rising, businesses are confident that the consumer will remain active into the near future.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Updated Jan. 21, 2019

Retail Consumption

  • Retail and food service sales continued climbed to $513 billion in November.

  • Sales are up 4.2 percent from one year ago.
     

  • This growth seems counter-intuitive given the meager personal consumption numbers described above. Personal consumption is a much broader measure and captures dollars spent on things like health care, housing and education, not just retail goods. 

About this Indicator: Personal consumption accounts for two-thirds of the US economy, so directly monitoring retail consumption can tell us a lot about the economy’s strength. This indicator estimates monthly retail sales and food service industry consumption. This data is adjusted to account for seasonal variations.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Updated Jan. 21, 2019

Construction

  • Construction activity increased slightly in September, up .1% since August.
     

  • Overall, construction activity has been flat over this Summer.
     

  • Still, construction activity is up 8 percent since last year.

​​

About this Indicator: Construction spending is a key measure of how the overall economy is doing. On one level, increasing construction numbers lead directly to construction employment. But, more importantly, construction spending indicates confidence in the overall economy. If the economy inspires confidence, businesses and individuals are more likely to invest in new construction. 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Updated Dec. 7, 2018

Construction Type

  • Private construction has leveled off during the Summer months.
     

  • Private residential construction continues to lead the way with an annual rate of $538 billion in October, down .5 percent from September.​

  • Private non-residential spending has been mostly flat in 2018. It declined .3 percent in October to $460 billion.

  • Public construction was up .8 percent September to October.

Updated Dec. 7, 2018

About this Indicator: Drilling into the components of construction spending can be insightful. If private construction is leading the way, it is a good indicator of confidence because individuals and businesses are willing to commit to a project (be it a home or a factory). Public construction is also an investment, but it can spike during economic downturns when it is used as a stimulus.

These figures represent monthly data at an annual rate. 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Inflation (CPI)

  • Consumer prices increased 2.7% for the year ending August 2018.

  • This rate is unchanged from 2.9 percent in July.


 

  • This marks the first decline in the CPI since late 2017.

About this Indicator: The consumer price index measures inflation. High inflation can cause economic turmoil because it diminishes the purchasing power of the dollar. The Federal Reserve has targeted inflation as “public enemy #1” and has been successful in keeping it in check in recent years.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Updated Dec. 20, 2018

Summary

Reasons for Confidence

  • The economy continues to look solid with a 3.4 percent GDP growth rate in Q3.

  • The economy is still adding jobs at a strong rate.

  • Beyond the raw numbers the fact we are seeing real growth in manufacturing and mining employment is noteworthy.

  • Continued growth in both the health care and professional-technical industries. These industries have been leading in employment growth for a long time now, and there is no reason to think this will change anytime soon.

  • Retail sales continue to be fairly strong.

Reasons for Concern

  • The government shutdown will undoubtedly impact the economy. Retail sales will likely dip (when new data is released) as a direct result of furloughed workers. If the shutdown goes much longer, we will see its effect on overall economic growth (GDP) and even in private sector employment.

  • Retailers are showing signs of caution as they are keeping inventories low.

  • Hidden within the GDP numbers is the fact that much of the private investment growth was due to inventory growth. Perhaps because businesses are starting to worry about the effects of a trade war. 

  • While construction remains strong overall, activity has leveled off in recent months.

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