1st Time Jobless Claims Remain Highly Volatile, Falling 10,000 in Last Week

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended December 3 FELL 10,000 to 258,000;
  • The number of claims for the week ended November 28 was unchanged at 268,000
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 92nd straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 1,000 to 252,500;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.166 percent of total employment, UP .001 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended November 28 – reported on a one-week lag – DECREASED 79,000 – largest week-week drop since July 2015 — to 2,005,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended November 21 was REVISED UP 3,000 to 2,084.000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims FELL 9,500 to 2,028,750;

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First time claims for unemployment insurance remained extremely volatile as the calendar turned to December, with a five-figure swing for the fifth straight week, according to the Labor Department.

The average change (regardless of direction) for the last five weeks has been 15,400 compared 6,600 for the previous five weeks. To be sure, the net change has been a drop of 7,000 claims over the last five weeks, but the wide swings suggest some instability in labor markets which would call into question the wisdom of tinkering with interest rates in the short term. Nonetheless, “body language” from the Federal Open Market Committee – the federal Reserve Board’s policy-setting arm – suggest the FOMC is poised to lower the target fed funds rate when it convenes next Tuesday. Though widely anticipated, the FOMC action could our a damper on holiday sales. Retailers had been anticipating strong sales, up about 3.6 percent, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The NRF estimated retailers would add between 640,000 and 690,000 jobs to deal with the increased sales volume for the holiday season which, according to NRF, covers all of November and December.

The four week moving average, designed to smooth the volatility of the weekly numbers, is showing less of a swing in the last five weeks ranging from an increase of 1,000 to a drop of 6,000 and a net decline of 5,250 for the period dropping the total to 252,500, 6.7 percent below the level a year ago.

Despite the recent volatility, both initial claims and continuing claims have been on a relatively stable downward trajectory over the past year. Continuing claims, often seen as a surrogate for hiring, are down 10.7 percent from a year ago. The four-week moving average of continuing claims has dropped a more modest7.1 percent.

In raw numbers, continuing claims fell 241,000 in the last year with most of that decline, 137,000, since September 1.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Housing Shows Weakness in December Despite Increase in Starts

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The rate of housing starts in December INCREASED 11.3 percent;
  • The decrease was led by a 57.3 percent JUMP in multi-family starts which had fallen 39.4 percent in November;
  • The pace of building permits was essentially flat showing a 0.2 percent DROP in November despite a 4.7 percent INCREASE in single-family permits; multi-family permits DROPPED 9 percent from November;
  • The rate of home completions FELL 7.9 percent as both single- and multi-family completions DROPPED.

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Housing activity continued to tread water in December – resembled a water bed – as offsetting categories of starts and permits moved up and down according to the latest data from the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The essentially weak report casts a shadow over the new Administration which faces ongoing challenges of reviving the economy, starting with the housing market.

Housing starts and permits are essentially flat to where they were at the beginning of 2016, with no real change in the split between single- and multi-family construction. That single-family activity as a share of all residential construction (starts) dropped through the years – 69 percent in January to 65 percent in December – reflects shifting attitudes among millennials as well as the special burdens they face from heavy levels of student loans.

In addition, suburbs – where most single-family construction occurs –have lost their lure among more environmentally conscious younger workers.

Builders also face the reality of relatively stagnant incomes though prices for new homes have begun to creep up. The median price of a new home which was $291,000 in January jumped to $319,000 in September but has since slipped to about $305,000 in the latest report (for November). The drop in price is consistent with a recent slide in home builder confidence as reported by the National Association of Home Builders.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on POTUS Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

1st Time Jobless Claims Drop After Layoffs Surge

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended January 12 DROPPED 15,000 to 234,000;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims FELL for fourth straight week, down 10,250 to 246,750, lowest since November 3, 1973.
  • Initial unemployment claims for the week ended January 5 were revised up 2,000 to 249,000
  • The four week moving average represented 0.169 percent of total employment, DOWN .007 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 98th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Continuing claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended January 5 FELL 47,000 to 2,046,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended December 2 was REVISED UP 6,000 to 2,093,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 1,750 to 2,090,000.

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Demonstrating that one week doesn’t make a trend, initial claims for unemployment insurance reversed for the week ended January 12, falling back to 234,000. For the week ended December 5, first time claim filings had increased 12,000 to 249,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday .

While last week’s report suggested a bit of “right-sizing” as employers shed worker who had been brought on to deal with a holiday and end-of-year rush, this week’s report suggested businesses may have overshot their marks.

At the same time, this report showed a continuation of the significant volatility in this data report. In nine of the last 11 weeks, initial claims have increased or decreased by 10,000 or more – or about 9 percent of the average number of claims. In the previous 11 weeks, the average change in the number of claims was less than 2 percent (1.9 percent to be more precise). In an 11-week period comparable to current data, the average weekly change in claims was about 3.4 percent.

That the volatility has changed so dramatically suggests either a reporting glitch or a near dramatic turn in the labor sector.

In either case, this data series, until the numbers settle, remains unpredictable and, consequently, less reliable, defying sober analysis.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Builder Confidence Slips in January; December Index Revised Lower

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Housing Market Index DIPPED two points in January to 67 after the December reading was revised down to 69 from 70;
  • All three components of the Index FELL in January led by a three-point drop in the measure of current sales;
  • By region, builder confidence SLIPPED in January in three of the four census regions, led by a drop of 11 points in the West. Builder confidence was unchanged in the Midwest from December to January.

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Two days before a new president – a real estate developer – is to be sworn in as President, builder confidence slipped from lofty levels in December, the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index reported Wednesday.

To be sure, the confidence survey for January showed considerably higher levels that a year ago for the overall index and its three components: the outlook for current ales, future sales and buyer traffic. The traffic measure at least could have benefitted from relatively balmy weather in December which encouraged potential new home buyers to venture out to kick tires.

Builders could be looking to what they believe will be a more sympathetic administration not based necessarily on development goals for more housing – market rate or affordable – but from someone who has as his stated objective reducing regulative hurdles and burdens.

Those views would not automatically reduce builder confidence but could conflict with President-elect Trump’s tax reduction goals. Lowering tax rates would reduce the value of incentives and other tax abatement programs which could cause builders to scramble for financing, thus reducing confidence levels.

The impact could be broad affecting not only builder bottom lines but the residential construction sector and new home market.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @ foxeconomics.

Autos, Gasoline Pace December Retail Increase;

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • December retail sales – measured by prices – INCREASED $2.9 billion or 0.6 percent from November, with auto sales accounting for most of the jump — $2.3 billion
  • Without autos, retail sales GREW $600 million, down from the $1.0 billion jump recorded in November;
  • Without auto and gasoline station sales retail activity DECLINED for the month.
  • The initial report that November sales had increased $378 million from October was revised UP to show a gain of $846 million;
  • Year-year total sales ROSE 4.1 percent (3.6 percent excluding autos) in December;

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Boosted by strong auto sales and sales at gasoline stations, retail activity (based on prices, jumped 0.6 percent in December, according to the Census BureauCensdus .

Gasoline sales rose $698 million or 2.0 percent, accounting for the entire gain in non-auto sales ($600 million). The per gallon price of gasoline rose a little more than 7¢ or 3.3 percent in December.

The Census report actually confirmed a weaker holiday shopping season than a year ago. Prices were up in virtually every store category, led by gasoline stations. Food and beverage retail stores, restaurants and electronics stores all showed price dips.

While labeled as a report on retail sales, the Census report is perhaps more accurately an indicator of prices. Sales data collected by Census are not adjusted for price changes, so an increase in “sales” which might be less than any price change actually reflects a decline in sales.

That said, “sales” increased for online retailers, at furniture stores and building supply stores as well as health and personal care and sporting goods stores.

Consistent with the weak sales data, retail employment rose in December, but well below its average monthly gain.

Hear Mark Lieberman on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconmics.

 

 

1st Time Jobless Claims Increase as Holiday Hiring Fades

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended January 5 INCREASED 10,000 to 247,000;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims DECLINED 1,750 to 256,500;
  • Initial unemployment claims for the week ended December 29 were revised up to 237,000
  • The four week moving average represented 0.169 percent of total employment, DOWN .001 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 97th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended December 29 – reported on a one-week lag – FELL 29,000 to 2,087,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended December 22 was REVISED UP 4,000 to 2,116,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 16,500 to 2,086,750;

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With the holiday shopping season ended, layoffs of temporary help took hold as filings for first time claims for unemployment insurance rose for the first week of January, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Seasonal adjustments – factors applied to account for predictable, recurring events – brought the reported number down from the unadjusted increase of 59,308 (an increase of 16.9 percent) which itself was higher than the 42,665 (12.2 percent) the Labor Department had expected.

But, then too the shopping season was not as robust as retailers had expected, resulting, for example, in Macy’s announcement of plans to drop 10,000 jobs after reporting a sales 14 percent sales drop from 2015. Kohl’s reported sales had fallen 9 percent. Macy’s plans to close 68 stores and Sears, which also had a dismal holiday season, will close 150 stores, idling 6,200 workers. (At the end of 2015, now President-elect Trump had called for a boycott of Macy’s after the store dropped his clothing line.)

It may be too early to say whether the claims report represents a trend but the four week-moving average of continuing claims – often a surrogate for hiring – has been increasing gradually, but steadily since the end of November, not a long range increase but enough to make people sit up to take notice.

At the same time, initial claims for unemployment insurance have been more volatile than usual: in the last ten weeks first time claim have gone up or down by at least 10,000 nine times compared with the prior ten weeks when the number of claims changed by more than 10,000 only once. The last time first time claims resembled this volatility was at the beginning of 2015.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Consumer Borrowing Explodes in November

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Consumer debt INCREASED 7.9 percent in November;
  • Revolving (credit card) borrowing outstanding SHOT UP to $13.5 billion in November from $2.9 billion in October;
  • Outstanding term loans, essentially auto loans, SLIPPED to $5.9 billion in November from $6.1 billion in October;
  • Interest rates for auto loans EDGED UP to 4.45 percent from 4.25 percent for a 48-month loans but FELL to 4.05 percent from 4.25 percent for a 60-month loans compared with August (rates are reported every three months);
  • Credit card rates DROPPED to 12.42 percent for all accounts and to 13.61 percent for accounts charged interest, down 10 and 14 basis points respectively since August.

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With an eye toward the Federal Open Market Committee, consumers ran up significantly higher credit card debt in November just before the Federal Open Market Committee increased the target fed funds rate at its December meeting, the Federal Reserve reported Monday.

The increase in outstanding revolving debt in November was about 50 percent more than the increase from October 2015 to November 2015. It suggests consumers may feel a bit more confident about their ability to carry higher levels of debt.

The increase in revolving credit outstanding also came in the same month in which retail sales measured by prices increased $378 million (0.1 percent) and one month after sales jumped 0.6 percent. The borrowing suggested a better holiday shopping season. That said, one of the nation’s largest retailers, Macy’s, said it would shutter stores and lay off 10,000 employees because of weaker than expected holiday sales.

The FOMC’s action in early December to raise the fed funds rate flows through to credit cards and auto loans though the impact may not be felt immediately.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics

 

 

 

 

Unemployment Rate Ticks Up to 4.7% With Weak Gain in Payrolls

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Hghlights

  • Unemployment rate ROSE in December to 4.7 percent
  • Payroll jobs INCREASED 156,000 in December;
  • Average weekly hours in December FELL to 34.3, matching November’s revised number as lowest since March 2011;
  • Average weekly earnings INCREASED in December to $891.80 — up $3.43 from November; Year-year increased improved to 2.3 percent from 1.9 percent in November;
  • Average hourly earnings ROSE 10¢ in December to $26.00;
  • Revisions to October and November payrolls added a net 19,000 jobs; November’s jobs total was revised up 26,000 to 204,000 and October’s was revised down 7,000 to 135,000
  • The number of full-time workers INCREASED 35,000 in December and the number of part-time workers GREW 41,000;
  • Labor force participation rate INCREASED to 62.7 percent, after revisions dropped the participation rate for November to 62.6 percent;
  • Number of people unemployed INCREASED 120,000;
  • Employment-Population ratio REMAINED at 59.7 percent
  • The number of retail jobs INCREASED 14,7000 as data for October and November were revised to show gains instead of previously reported declines;
  • Leisure and hospitality sector added 24,000 jobs, 29,500 at restaurant;
  • Combined, retail and leisure and hospitality accounted for 38,700 or almost 25 percent of December’s new payroll jobs;
  • The number of temp jobs DROPPED 15,500;
  • Governments added 12,000 jobs: 5,000 federal, 6,000 state and 1,000 local.

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This was another meh employment report with a tepid increase in jobs and a slight bump in the unemployment rate to 4.7 percent – the first month-month increase since June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

It was the first employment report since Donald Trump was elected President and the last of the reports to reflect a full month of the Obama Administration. Data for this report is general collected for week including the 12th of the month. Since Inauguration Day is the 20th, only some of the labor market performance can be attributed to the new President.

With the record essentially closed on the Obama Administration, the data indicate a net gain of 12.03 million jobs since he took office compared with a gain of just 15,000 jobs during the George W. Bush Administration and 22.9 million gained in the years Bill Clinton was President.

The health care sector – threatened if Republicans carry out their threat to unwind the Affordable Care Act – added 63,300 jobs but the manufacturing sector lost job in December. The number of new payroll jobs – 156,000 – trailed the 202,000 increase in the working age population.

The encouraging sign – the increase in both average hourly and average weekly earnings – actually represented a recovery from December when average weekly earnings dropped $3.28 and average hourly earnings fell 2¢.

The continued decline in the average workweek could be a troublesome sign if it means employers need fewer hours worked. When the economy was in the throes of Recession economists were looking for an increase in the number of hours as a sign employers would have to increase staff and payrolls.

The report did not reflect the recent announcement that retail giant Macy’s plans to eliminate 10,000 jobs in the wake of weak holiday sales.

As disappointing as the jobs gains were, the drop in earnings hurt even more heading into the holiday shopping season although retailers – primarily clothing stores – seemed to have an inkling. While total retail jobs fell 8,900, clothing store shed 17,600 jobs.

The report, of course, followed the action by the Federal Open Market Committee increasing the target fed funds rate to slow the economy. Some observers suggested the FOMC increased rates so it could cut them as an economic stimulus.

The increase in manufacturing payrolls came against a backdrop of an increase in both wholesale and retail inventories offset by a decline in durable goods.

The drop in construction payrolls as well could reflect a dip in pending home sales and a decline in new residential construction as reported by the Census Bureau.

President-elect Trump has repeatedly suggested he wants to undertake an infrastructure program which could bolster the construction segment.

In some of the sectors which reported job gains, those gains may be temporary. There were, for example, 11,700 new courier jobs in December, jobs which will probably disappear as the holiday shopping season fades. At the same time there was only a slight increase in the number high paying professional and technical service jobs – 6,600 compared with a monthly average of 23,400 over the last year. If the small increase proves to be the start of a trend, it could have a negative impact on the larger economy.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

1st Time Jobless Claims Down Sharply at Year-End; ADP Report Suggests Weak Hiring

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended December 31 TUMBLED 28,000 to 263,000, the fourth decline in the last five weeks;
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 96th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims DECLINED 5,750 to 256,750;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.169 percent of total employment, DOWN .004 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended December17 – reported on a one-week lag – INCREASED 17,000 to 2,112,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended December 10 was UNCHANGED;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED to 2,067,000;
  • ADP Employment report showed payroll jobs INCREASED 153,000 in December; report for November showed an increase of 215,000 payroll jobs;

Who said there’s no such thing as Santa Claus? He must have arrived during the last week of 2016 and intercepted notices of layoffs which often follow the holiday season when companies pare their workforces of employees hired for an end of year crush.

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Instead, first time claims for unemployment insurance, the Labor Department reported dropped sharply, down 28,000 to 235,000, the lowest level since mid-November (233,000) and the second lowest level since November 1972. In and unfortunate coincidence of timing though, the Labor Department report came just one day after Macy’s announced it would drop 10,000 employees because of weak holiday sales. The Labor Department data also came on the same day payroll processing company ADP said its data suggested the nation added 153,000 private sector jobs in December, 28.8 percent fewer that ADP said were added in November.

(The Bureau of Labor Statistics though reported at the beginning of December the private sector added just 150,000 jobs in November.)

The weekly unemployment claims report is one of the timelier indicators of the economy (along with the Mortgage Bankers Association tabulation of mortgage applications) providing a quick snapshot of activity between the more detailed other economic reports which can be released two months after data are collected.

But the Labor Department unemployment insurance report is has demonstrated significant and unusual volatility of late with wide week-week swings. In eight of the last nine weeks, the number of first time claims has changed by at least 10,000 (regardless of direction). In the preceding nine weeks, the number of claims was at least 10,000 different from the prior week only once. In the same nine-week period a year ago the week-week change in the number of claims was greater than 10,000 five times and was zero once.

It is just that volatility which can make this indicator less than reliable.

Thursday’s report will have no impact on the BLS’ employment situation report for December. That report is based on data collected mid-month.

You can hear Mark Lieberman tomorrow, Friday January 6, at 8:45 am on the Morning Briefing and again at 12:05 on the Midday Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Pending Home Sales Index Drops to Second Lowest Level of Year

Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) FELL 2.5 percentage points in November to 107.3, the lowest level since January;
  • The month-month percentage decline matched August for the second sharpest drop of the year;
  • Year-year the index fell 0.4 percent, the third year-year decline this year.

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The housing market took another hit Wednesday when the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) fell to its second lowest level of the year. The sharp drop in the PHSI suggests a weak start to home sales in the new year.

The drop in pending home sales – reflecting contracts signed – is consistent with the NAR’s report last week on home sales – which showed a sharp drop in homes on the market – to the lowest level since January.

The combination of the low levels of contracts and homes available for sale with continued slow income growth and increasing interest rates, against a backdrop of chatter the Federal Open Market Committee will continue to hike increase rates in 2017. Members of the FOMC themselves forecast three more increases in the coming year.

The inventory concerns are themselves compounded by weaker home prices which discourage empty nesters from putting their homes up for sale. Though the Case Shiller Core Logic Home Price Index showed the national index rose in October (the most recent index released), the 10-city index fell and the 20-city index went up by less than it rose in September – the sixth straight month the index has increased more slowly than the month before.

Any slowdown in home sales has a ripple effect on other elements of the economy, most specifically furniture, appliance and home furnishing stores. It could also have a negative impact on financial markets as a slowdown in sales means fewer mortgages written.

Hear Mark Lieberman tomorrow on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S., Sirius-XM 124. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

National Case Shiller Home Price Index At New Record in October

 

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

Highlights:

  • National Case Shiller CoreLogic Home Price Index IMPROVED in October, reaching a new all-time high but companion indices weakened;
  • 10-city Index also FELL in October for the first time since January;
  • 20-city Index ROSE but more slowly than September; For the sixth straight month 20-city index rose more slowly than the month before;
  • Prices ROSE in 14 of the 20 cities surveyed;
  • Prices fell in the Northeast and Midwest while rising in the South and West;
  • Year-year prices were UP in all 20 cities but the October-October increase was slower in nine cities than the increase from September 2015 to September 2016.

 

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Housing prices continued to stutter-step in October according to the monthly Case Shiller CoreLogic Home Price Index released Tuesday. While the national index rose to a record high, the 10-city index slipped for only the second time this year and the increase in the 20-city index was weaker than it was in September.

 

The Case-Shiller home price report tracked data on new and existing home sales for October which also showed price weakness. By unit, existing home sales improved in October but new home sales slid.

 

Rolled together this presents a confusing picture for housing as would-be purchasers still have to overcome slow-income growth and – in the case of younger buyers – crushing student loan debt. At the same time, mortgage rates have been creeping up.

 

Home inventories remain weak reducing choice for buyers dampening the market which has a ripple effect for empty-nesters who had been anticipating funding retirement from home sale proceeds.

 

The October index reports had a decidedly regional tinge. Six of the 20 cities are in the Northeast and Midwest where prices in October slipped 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent respectively. Prices rose in the South and West but in the West went up just 0.e percent from September. Prices improved 0.4 in the South.

 

The index is heavily weighted toward the West which contains eight of the 20 cities surveyed.

 

Month-month, prices fell in five cities led by Chicago where the price index slipped 1.1 percent. Prices also declined in Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and Portland.

 

Tampa had the largest gain in prices, up 0.9 percent followed by San Francisco and Miami.

 

Year over year, prices were up 10.7 percent in Seattle, 10.3 percent in Portland, 8.3 percent in Denver, 8.1 percent in Dallas and 7.8 percent in Tampa.

 

Similarly, while the price index improved in the 10- and 20-city indexes compiled monthly, the August improvement was weaker than July.

 

Hear Mark Lieberman this Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio’s Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124, at 7:40 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.