FHFA House Price Index rankings by metro area for 1Q/20

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National new home sales for April; 2020

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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for May; 2020

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index Stabilizes in May

New York, May 26, 2020…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® held steady in May, following a sharp decline in April. The Index now stands at 86.6 (1985=100), up from 85.7 in April. The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – declined from 73.0 to 71.1. However, the Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – improved from 94.3 in April to 96.9 this month.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was May 14.

“Following two months of rapid decline, the free-fall in Confidence stopped in May,” says Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “The severe and widespread impact of COVID-19 has been mostly reflected in the Present Situation Index, which has plummeted nearly 100 points since the onset of the pandemic. Short-term expectations moderately increased as the gradual re-opening of the economy helped improve consumers’ spirits. However, consumers remain concerned about their financial prospects. In addition, inflation expectations continue to climb, which could lead to a sense of diminished purchasing power and curtail spending. While the decline in confidence appears to have stopped for the moment, the uneven path to recovery and potential second wave are likely to keep a cloud of uncertainty hanging over consumers’ heads.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined further in May. The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” decreased from 19.9 percent to 16.3 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased from 45.3 percent to 52.1 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was mixed. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 18.8 percent to 17.4 percent, however those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 34.5 percent to 27.8 percent.

Consumers, however, were moderately more optimistic about the short-term outlook. Those expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months increased from 39.8 percent to 43.3 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen decreased, from 25.1 percent to 21.4 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was mixed. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined from 41.2 percent to 39.3 percent, however those anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead also decreased, from 21.2 percent to 20.2 percent. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the percentage of consumers expecting an increase declined from 17.2 percent to 14.0 percent, however the proportion expecting a decrease declined from 18.4 percent to 15.0 percent.

Source: May 2020 Consumer Confidence Survey®
The Conference Board

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Conference Board Leading Economic Index for April; 2020

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. Declined in April
Widespread declines in leading indicators suggest no easy path to recovery

NEW YORK, May 21, 2020…The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. declined 4.4 percent in April to 98.8 (2016 = 100), following a 7.4 percent decline in March, and a 0.2 percent decline in February.

“In April, the US LEI continued on a downward trajectory, after posting the largest decline in its 60-year history in March,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “The erosion has been very widespread, except for stock prices and the interest rate spread which partially reflect the rapid and large response of the Federal Reserve to offset the pandemic’s impact and support financial conditions. The sharp declines in the LEI and CEI suggest that the US economy is now in recession territory.”

“Business conditions may recover for some sectors and industries over the next few months,” added Bart van Ark, Chief Economist at The Conference Board, “But, the breadth and depth of the decline in the LEI suggests that an imminent re-opening of some sectors does not imply a fast rebound for the economy at large.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. declined 8.9 percent in April to 96.6 (2016 = 100), following a 1.5 percent decline in March and a 0.3 percent increase in February.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased 4.1 percent in April to 115.3 (2016 = 100), following a 1.7 percent increase in March, and a 0.4 percent increase in February.

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.

The ten components of The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® for the U.S. include:

Average weekly hours, manufacturing
Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
ISM® Index of New Orders
Manufacturers’ new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
Building permits, new private housing units
Stock prices, 500 common stocks
Leading Credit Index™
Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
Average consumer expectations for business conditions

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National new home housing starts and permits; April 2020

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Conference Board Employment Trends Index; April 2020

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) Dropped Further in April
Index declines further as job market deteriorates amid COVID-19

NEW YORK, May 11, 2020…The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) declined further in April, following a sharp decline in March. The index now stands at 43.43, down from 57.87 (a downward revision) in March. The index is down 60.2 percent from a year ago.

“The Employment Trends Index plunged in March and April, with all components of the index moving far into negative territory,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “A decline in jobs of this magnitude is unprecedented. The principal objective of the economy going forward is to accommodate the delicate balance of getting people back to work while minimizing the spread of the virus. Millions of workers in businesses that were shut down will return to work over the coming months as states start to reopen their economies. However, for many companies, massive layoffs will continue in the coming months as they try to adjust to lost revenue with cost cuts. Beginning in May or June, we expect that the number of workers returning to work will be larger than the number being furloughed or laid off. This would mean the unemployment rate will start to decline. At the end of the year, however, the labor market may still be in worse condition than it was at the peak of the Great Recession.”

April’s decrease was fueled by negative contributions from all eight components. From the largest negative contributor to the smallest, these were: the Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers, the Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry, the Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get,” Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, Industrial Production, Job Openings, Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, and the Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now.

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators, 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.

The eight labor-market indicators aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:

Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” (The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey®)
Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance (U.S. Department of Labor)
Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now (© National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation)
Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers (BLS)
Job Openings (BLS)**
Industrial Production (Federal Reserve Board)*
Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)**

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Conference Board commentary on 5/8/20

A Downsized and Uneven Labor Market

Comment on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report
Gad Levanon, Head of the Labor Markets Institute, The Conference Board

The April jobs report shows a staggering loss of 20.5 million jobs, which is the largest monthly loss in recorded history. Employment dramatically dropped across almost every industry. The unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate underestimates the amount of slack currently in the labor market. 5.1 million additional workers are now working part-time even though they prefer a full-time job. And the number of people outside the labor force grew by 6.6 million, showing many are currently discouraged to even try to find a job. Over the coming months, we should expect participation to increase again as the economy begins to open up.

The jump in average hourly earnings is not very meaningful as it rose for the wrong reasons. Large layoffs of mostly low-paid workers raised the average pay, as was the case in the Great Recession.

Dramatic as they are, the top line numbers are not very telling for what’s ahead. It is obvious that when many businesses are shut down, and many workers are not allowed to go to work, unemployment rates will skyrocket. As the economy opens, millions of people will go back to work. From that perspective, the report offers a somewhat positive statistic: A large majority, 78 percent, of the unemployed are on temporary layoff.

The report shows that some demographic groups are much harder hit than others due to the layoffs thus far. While the overall unemployment rate increased by 11.2 percentage points between February and April, this increase was 12.8 for women, 14.5 for Hispanic people, 19.3 for those age 20-24 and 20.9 for those age 16-19.

Over the past 12 months, the overall unemployment rate increased by 11.1 percentage points. This increase was just 6.1 percentage points for management, professional and related occupations, versus a 23.1 percentage point increase for service occupations. While the labor market slack increased for all types of workers, it much more dramatically increased for those without a college degree.

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