Amid all the bond (and now equity) market excitement, it’s worth noting some economic news from home that’s not so bad and some news from abroad that’s positively good. Not so bad is today’s Live Register release which shows the standardised unemployment rate steady at 13.4% (though this is subject to all the usual caveats about whether this claims based measure is accurately capturing the underlying trends in joblessness) while the retail sales figures show some sign of stabilisation.
From abroad, the non-farm payrolls figures in the US showed 290,000 jobs added in April. While the unemployment rate from the household survey increased to 9.9%, this is partly due to a reversal of the decline in labour force participation. Payroll growth at this pace, if sustained, would start to reduce the unemployment rate.
Occasionally we get accused of only posting about bad news. I’m not sure that’s fair. The fact is there’s been plenty of bad news to comment on and some of it eye-popping enough to warrant a posts with a bit of additional analysis. That said, yesterday’s release on February retails sales was encouraging, so I thought I’d just point people towards it. After eight quarters in a row of falling retails sales, we seem to be stabilising. Maybe it’s time to have another round of “call the bottom of the recession” given that John the Optimist’s plucky call of a bottoming out last summer doesn’t seem to have worked out.
Retail sales in February were down 20.9% relative to a year earlier, up from a 26.6% year-over-year decline in January. Total sales rose 5.7% in February but this was nearly all due to a partial unwinding of the horrible January motor trade sales. Excluding the motor trade, sales were up 1.3% in February and the year-over-year decline stands at -6.9%, which is up a little from its low point of -8.5% recorded in November.
I’m not going to write about second deriviatives or, god forbid, green shoots. But, still, I’ll just observe that these numbers are not as horrible as I might have expected and leave those that know more about this release to add further comment.