Overview: While there was some significant economic news released over the past week, most notably Friday’s monthly Employment Report, there were few surprises. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week with little change.
In June, the economy gained 213,000 jobs, above the expected level of 190,000. In addition, upward revisions added 37,000 jobs to the results for prior months. The economy has gained an average of 215,000 jobs per month so far this year, exceeding the rate of 182,000 seen over this period last year. Economists estimate that job gains of just roughly 125,000 are needed to keep up with population gains.
The unemployment rate increased from an 18-year low of 3.8% to 4.0%, which was higher than expected. In this case, however, this was viewed as a sign of strength. The reason is that there are two factors which influence the unemployment rate, and June's increase was due to a large increase in the number of workers entering the labor force rather than job losses.
Offsetting the strong job gains, wage growth fell slightly short of expectations. Growth was 2.7% higher than a year ago, the same annual rate of increase as last month. The Federal Reserve views wage growth as a key indicator of the amount of extra capacity remaining in the labor market. The minutes from the June 13 Fed meeting released last Thursday contained no major surprises. Still, investors took note of the discussion of the upside and downside risks to the economy. Fed officials pointed to the recent tax cuts as a potential source of support for future economic growth. On the other hand, they suggested that the risk of trade tensions slowing future investment activity has increased, which would be negative for the economy.
Looking ahead, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will come out on Thursday. CPI looks at the price change for finished goods and services. The Retail Sales report will be released on July 16. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic activity in the U.S., and the retail sales data is a key indicator of growth. The New Residential Construction report (also known as Housing Starts) will come out on July 18.