Economic Data Tracker –
Week 21

Economic Data Tracker

May 27, 2022

Our weekly view on the economy including rationale on GDP, jobs report, and Fed policy decisions. Download the entire weekly edition to view timely charts and data providing a comprehensive picture of how incoming economic data affects our economic outlook.

Trend watch and what’s new this week

Although the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has increased (slide 6), the weekly pace has more than halved in past few weeks (slide 9). In fact, three of the four U.S. regions declined week-over-week, the exception being the West.

The rate of hospitalizations ebbed, but the percentage of COVID-19 patients continued to rise (slide 8). Meanwhile, the death rate has held steady in recent weeks (slide 6). We will continue to monitor it.

Most of the activity-based data (slides 5 and 7) continued to strengthen this past week. Temporary staffing rebounded. Within the travel-related data, hotel occupancy rose to the highest level since August 2021, weekly air passengers topped 15.6 million, while restaurant bookings flipped to positive compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Deeper dive in the data – Key inflation gauge ebbed, business spending holding up, housing weak, not all sectors “over hired”

The Federal Reserves’ (Fed) favorite inflation gauge—the price index of core personal consumption expenditures—slipped for a second straight month (slide 10). Although elevated compared pre-pandemic levels, this bolsters our case that the easing inflation pressures could give the Fed enough cover to throttle back on rate hikes later in ’22 and into ’23.

On slide 11, we highlight new orders for core capital goods, which hit fresh all-time high in April. These are new orders, which suggests that demand for business equipment remains solid despite inflation and higher interest rates.

On slides 12 and 13, we dig into the employment trends of retailers, which seem out-of-step with other sectors.

On slide 14, we highlight new home sales and prices. New home sales dropped for the fourth month in a row, yet prices continued to increase. 

Lastly, we updated the container traffic data for the top 5 U.S. ports (slide 15), which dipped in April following a strong March. 

Our take

The downshift in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is notable. Interestingly, COVID-19 seems to have quietly slipped out of the spotlight, despite worries that the COVID-related shutdowns in China during April would reverberate in the U.S. and upend economic activity. That hasn’t materialized.

Following weak first quarter earnings for two of the largest big box general merchandise retailers, the emerging narrative was that many companies were “over staffed” and that consumers were “tapped out.”

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