Job Openings Are Still Abundant, Home Prices Accelerate

What Tuesday’s Economic Reports Tell Us

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The number of job openings in February stayed at near record levels and home prices accelerated for the first time in five months, reports showed Tuesday.

Here’s a quick look at the most significant economic indicators of the day and what they tell us.

Job Openings

  • A Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed workers maintained their upper hand in the job market in February.
  • In a bit of good news for employers, the number of people hired edged up 4.1% from January. Other than that, though, the story was a by-now familiar tale of near-record job openings (steady at 11.3 million, just shy of the record 11.4 million in December) and workers quitting in droves—2.9 million of them, a smidge short of the record 3 million seen in December.
  • Overall, the dynamic was the same as in January, with the phrase “little changed” appearing 14 times in the report.

S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index 

  • Home prices jumped 19.2% between last January and this January, accelerating from the 18.9% yearly growth seen in December, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which tracks average home prices nationwide. It was the first acceleration in five months. 
  • Before the pandemic, annual price gains in the 4%-6% range were normal, but ultra-low mortgage rates and huge demand from homebuyers sent prices roaring ahead over the past two years. The only small sign of relief came late last year, when prices—still rising—weren’t increasing at quite the same pace after peaking at a record 20% annual growth in August.
  • Since January, mortgage rates have shot up and may start to have an impact on prices, Craig J. Lazzara, an S&P Dow Jones managing director, said in a statement released with the data.

Consumer Confidence

  • While consumers’ feelings about the economy and their own finances improved slightly in March—the first improvement in three months—their outlook for the future dimmed, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index showed. Rapid inflation, rising gas prices, and the war in Ukraine pushed an index measuring their short-term outlook to its lowest level since 2014 and inflation expectations were at their highest since the Conference Board began asking about inflation in 1987.
  • An important predictor of spending and economic growth, consumer confidence has held up pretty well despite inflation and the war because of the strength of the job market, Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a report. Fifty-seven percent of respondents to the survey said jobs were plentiful, the highest in the history of the survey going back to 1978.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Diccon at dhyatt@thebalance.com.

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