Conference Board Leading Economic Indicators; August, 2021

NEW YORK, September 23, 2021The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. increased by 0.9 percent in August to 117.1 (2016 = 100), following a 0.8 percent increase in July and a 0.6 percent increase in June.

“The U.S. LEI rose sharply in August and remains on a rapidly rising trajectory,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “While the Delta variant—alongside rising inflation fears—could create headwinds for labor markets and the consumer spending outlook in the near term, the trend in the LEI is consistent with robust economic growth in the reminder of the year. Real GDP growth for 2021 is expected to reach nearly 6.0 percent year-over-year, before easing to a still-robust 4.0 percent for 2022.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased by 0.2 percent in August to 105.9 (2016 = 100), following a 0.6 percent increase in July and a 0.5 percent increase in June.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased by 0.1 percent in August to 106.3 (2016 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in July and a 0.1 percent decrease in June.

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National new home housing metrics; August, 2021

Building Permits
Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,728,000.
This is 6.0 percent (±1.4 percent) above the revised July rate of 1,630,000 and is 13.5 percent (±1.8 percent) above the August 2020 rate of 1,522,000. Single‐family authorizations in August were at a rate of 1,054,000; this is 0.6 percent (±1.3 percent)* above the revised July figure of 1,048,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 632,000
in August.


Housing Starts
Privately‐owned housing starts in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,615,000. This is 3.9 percent (±11.3 percent)* above the revised July estimate of 1,554,000 and is 17.4 percent (±12.1 percent) above the August 2020 rate of
1,376,000. Single‐family housing starts in August were at a rate of 1,076,000; this is 2.8 percent (±10.4 percent)* below the revised July figure of 1,107,000. The August rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 530,000.

Housing Completions
Privately‐owned housing completions in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,330,000. This is 4.5 percent (±11.1 percent)* below the revised July estimate of 1,392,000, but is 9.4 percent (±10.3 percent)* above the August 2020 rate of 1,216,000. Single‐family housing completions in August were at a rate of 971,000; this is 2.8 percent (±9.6 percent)* above the revised July rate of 945,000. The August rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 356,000.

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Conference Board Employment Trends Index; August, 2021

NEW YORK, September 7, 2021…The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased for the sixth consecutive month in August, though the rate of increase has fallen. The index now stands at 110.37, up from 109.89 in July.

“The growth rate of the Employment Trends Index slowed in the past two months, reflecting the Delta variant’s impact on economic activity, especially in in-person services,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “We continue to monitor two trends which could put a damper on employment growth. First, the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to increase, holding back economic and job market recovery. 

“Second, the labor market continues to experience historical recruiting difficulties. According to a survey of the National Federation of Independent Business, 50 percent of small employers reported difficulty filling positions in August, an all-time high accompanied by rapidly rising wages. Towards the end of 2021, these severe labor shortages may ease as enhanced unemployment benefits expire and schools reopen, leading more workers to return to the labor market. We expect another month of subpar job growth in September, but strong job growth is likely resume in the last quarter of 2021. Since COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, a return to normal spending on, and employment in, in-person services is unlikely to happen in 2021.”

August’s increase in the Employment Trends Index was driven by positive contributions from five of the Index’s eight components. From the largest positive contributor to the smallest, the components were: Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance; Industrial Production; Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers; Job Openings; and the Percentage of Firms with Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now. The three components that made negative contributions were, from largest to smallest, the Number of Temporary Employees; Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales; and Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”.

The Employment Trends Index is a leading composite index for employment. Turning points in the index indicate that a turning point in the number of jobs is about to occur in the coming months. The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight leading indicators of employment, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.

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Comment on August Jobs Report by Gad Levanon, Head of the Labor Market Institute, The Conference Board

Today’s jobs report reflected the effects of both the COVID-19 Delta variant and the severe labor shortage in the US labor market.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by just 235,000 in August, after an upwardly revised increase of 1,053,000 in July. The published unemployment rate ticked down from 5.4 to 5.2 percent, and the true rate, after adjusting for the misclassification error, declined from 5.7 to 5.4 percent. The number of jobs is still 5.33 million below February 2020 levels, with women representing 56.1 percent of these employment losses. The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 61.7 percent.

The negative effects of the Delta variant on hiring and the economy were apparent in the August nonfarm payrolls print. In August, real-time statistics showed a significant drop in spending and mobility metrics on leisure-related categories. And consumer confidence declined in August as well. As a result, today’s jobs report showed slower employment growth in in-person services. After growing rapidly in recent months and being a major contributor to overall job growth (see chart below), in August there was no change in the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector. In the previous COVID-19 surge from November 2020 to January 2021, employment in leisure and hospitality not only decelerated, but declined.

Meanwhile, wage data revealed that US labor markets remain tight. The unemployment rate continued to fall, and there were no signs that the severe labor shortage is easing. Wages are still increasing very rapidly. Average hourly earnings were up 6.2 percent (annual rate) over the past five months, signaling that employers are offering stronger incentives to attract qualified workers. Much of the acceleration in wages comes from the earnings of blue-collar and manual services industries such as leisure and hospitality and transportation.

Looking forward, the ongoing increase in the number of new infections is likely to lead to another subpar payrolls print in September. Towards the end of 2021, these severe labor shortages are likely to ease as enhanced unemployment benefits expire and schools reopen, leading more workers to return to the labor market.

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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for August, 2021

New York, August 31, 2021…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® declined in August, following a decrease in July (a downward revision). The Index now stands at 113.8 (1985=100), down from 125.1 in July. The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—fell to 147.3 from 157.2 last month. The Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—fell to 91.4 from 103.8.

“Consumer confidence retreated in August to its lowest level since February 2021 (95.2),” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Concerns about the Delta variant—and, to a lesser degree, rising gas and food prices—resulted in a less favorable view of current economic conditions and short-term growth prospects. Spending intentions for homes, autos, and major appliances all cooled somewhat; however, the percentage of consumers intending to take a vacation in the next six months continued to climb. While the resurgence of COVID-19 and inflation concerns have dampened confidence, it is too soon to conclude this decline will result in consumers significantly curtailing their spending in the months ahead.

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National new home sales metrics for July; 2021

August 24, 2021 ‐ The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced the following new residential sales statistics for July 2021:

NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES JULY 2021

New Houses Sold1
: 708,000

New Houses For Sale2
: 367,000

Median Sales Price: $390,500

New Home Sales
Sales of new single‐family houses in July 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.0 percent (±11.3 percent)* above the revised June rate of 701,000, but is 27.2 percent (±7.3 percent) below the July 2020 estimate of 972,000.


Sales Price
The median sales price of new houses sold in July 2021 was $390,500. The average sales price was $446,000.


For Sale Inventory and Months’ Supply
The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of July was 367,000. This represents a supply of 6.2 months at the current sales rate.

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Conference Board Leading Economic Index for July; 2021

NEW YORK, August 19, 2021The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. increased by 0.9 percent in July to 116.0 (2016 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in June and a 1.2 percent increase in May.

“The U.S. LEI registered another large gain in July, with all components contributing positively,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “The Leading Index’s overall upward trend, which started with the end of the pandemic-induced recession in April 2020, is consistent with strong economic growth in the second half of the year. While the Delta variant and/or rising inflation fears could create headwinds for the US economy in the near term, we expect real GDP growth for 2021 to reach 6.0 percent year-over-year, before easing to a still robust 4.0 percent growth rate for 2022.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased by 0.6 percent in July to 105.6 (2016 = 100), following a 0.4 percent increase in June and a 0.1 percent increase in May.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased by 0.6 percent in May to 106.5 (2016 = 100), after being unchanged in June and increasing 0.8 percent in May.

The next release is scheduled for Thursday, September 23 at 10 A.M. ET.

About The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S.

The composite economic indexes are the key elements in an analytic system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of several individual leading, coincident, or lagging indicators. They are constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component – primarily because they smooth out some of the volatility of individual components.

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National new home metrics for July; 2021

Building Permits


Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,635,000. This is 2.6 percent (±0.9 percent) above the revised June rate of 1,594,000 and is 6.0 percent (±0.9 percent) above the July 2020 rate of 1,542,000. Single‐family authorizations in July were at a rate of 1,048,000; this is 1.7 percent (±0.8 percent) below the revised June figure of 1,066,000.

Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 532,000 in July.

Housing Starts


Privately‐owned housing starts in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,534,000. This is 7.0 percent (±8.9 percent)* below the revised June estimate of 1,650,000, but is 2.5 percent (±10.9 percent)* above the July 2020 rate of 1,497,000. Single‐family housing starts in July were at a rate of 1,111,000; this is 4.5 percent (±9.9percent)* below the revised June figure of 1,163,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 412,000.

Housing Completions


Privately‐owned housing completions in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,391,000. This is 5.6 percent (±16.4 percent)* above the revised June estimate of 1,317,000 and is 3.8 percent (±14.4 percent)* above the July 2020 rate of 1,340,000. Single‐family housing completions in July were at a rate of 954,000; this is 3.6 percent (±16.1 percent)* above the revised June rate of 921,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 426,000.

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Conference Board report on the influence of global travel bans

Report: Pandemic Travel Restrictions Inflict Substantial Toll on Global Growth and Trade—with No Clear End in Sight  

NEW YORK, August 11, 2021…A year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared, travel bans remain in place around the globe, with nearly every economy still mandating some form of restrictions on foreign travelers. A new report from The Conference Board examines the cascading costs of these measures—on the 334 million people worldwide directly dependent on the travel and tourism sector, and far beyond to long-term prospects for global growth and trade.   

According to Trade Risks: Travel Bans, the travel services industry—gutted by sudden border closures in 2020—may only recover to 50 percent of 2019 levels by the end of 2021. A full recovery of travel services would add 0.7 ppts to 2021 global GDP, lifting The Conference Board forecast of 5.3 percent growth to a full 6.0 percent. On the other hand, if travel bans persist or even tighten, current consensus growth forecasts may be too optimistic.

“For much of the world, the travel bans enacted as emergency measures in 2020 remain in place,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “The continued emergence of new virus variants and stubborn vaccination challenges—whether due to supply, logistics, or hesitancy—are understandably prompting governments to extend policies that heavily restrict the movement of people across borders. But with no certain end in sight, pandemic-era travel bans risk transforming longstanding expectations around the free movement of goods, services, cash, and people—and becoming a perpetual headwind holding back global economic potential.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Business travel is down dramatically—and may be slow to return. Companies are cutting costs by forgoing travel as ongoing pandemic restrictions—63 percent of governments have either a total or partial ban on foreign visitors—appear to be accelerating a long-term trend toward virtual meetings. Over the long term, this shift may threaten industries that thrive on in-person connections that drive innovation and/or sales and customer relationships.
  • Travel bans on foreign tourists are an even greater risk to economies worldwide. Tourist spending accounts for 87 percent of total global exports of travel services—which collapsed worldwide in 2020. The ongoing negative impacts of this collapse have extended beyond tourist industries directly affected by travel bans, to pummel adjacent sectors like entertainment, amusement, and food services, as well as national and regional governments dependent on tax revenues from visitors. Tourist hubs in Asia and the Caribbean have felt the brunt of these challenges, but even some of the world’s largest and richest economies—including Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Hong Kong—face outsized exposures to continued restrictions.
  • Travel ban uncertainty creates different glidepaths to recovery for the travel and tourism services trade—and consequently for global GDP growth as a whole. The path to recovery for travel and tourism activity remains uncertain given the tangle of conflicting restrictions on foreign visitors around the world. Ideally, international people flows would return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 or early next year. However, as coronavirus variants spread, such a return to normalcy is highly dependent on the degree to which individual governments roll back travel bans and people regain confidence in the safety and reliability of international travel.
  • Travel bans threaten to sour relations between economies that choose to reopen borders quickly and those that do not. Even before the pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions were already fueling a surge in tariffs, sanctions, and protectionist sentiments. As governments choose different paths to reopening their borders, travel restrictions may become the next front for international trade friction and another prime risk to the future of globalization.
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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index; July 2021

New York, July 27, 2021…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® was relatively unchanged in July, following gains in each of the prior five months. The Index now stands at 129.1 (1985=100), up from 128.9 in June. The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—rose from 159.6 to 160.3. The Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—was virtually unchanged at 108.4, compared to 108.5 last month. 

Consumer confidence was flat in July but remains at its highest level since February 2020 (132.6),” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions held steady, suggesting economic growth in Q3 is off to a strong start. Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook didn’t waver, and they continued to expect that business conditions, jobs, and personal financial prospects will improve. Short-term inflation expectations eased slightly but remained elevated. Spending intentions picked up in July, with a larger percentage of consumers saying they planned to purchase homes, automobiles, and major appliances in the coming months. Thus, consumer spending should continue to support robust economic growth in the second half of 2021.”

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