Last week’s economic news included readings on construction spending, the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement, and a press conference by Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. Labor data on public and private sector jobs and the national unemployment rate were reported along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.
Residential Developments Lead September Construction Spending
High demand for homes continued to fuel home construction, but public and non-residential construction spending was slower according to the Commerce Department. Residential construction spending rose by 2.70 percent on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis while public construction spending decreased by -1.70 percent and non-residential construction spending dropped by -1.60 percent.
Changing priorities for home buyers including accommodations for work-from-home spaces and moving away from congested urban areas drove demand for single-family homes. Commercial and public construction was sidelined as concerns over municipal spending and less revenue sidelined business and public construction spending. A new wave of COVID-19 cases also dampened commercial and public construction plans.
FOMC Statement and Fed Chair’s Press Conference
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve said it would leave the target Federal Funds range unchanged at 0.00 to 0.25 percent to promote access to business and personal credit. Factors contributing to the Committee’s decision included observations that demand for goods and services decreased and lower oil prices held down inflation. Committee members expected the spread of COVID-19 to impact the economy, employment, and inflation in the near term. The virus is expected to pose serious risks to economic forecasts over the medium term.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that the economy continued to recover from its low in the second quarter, but the pace of economic improvement has since slowed. Travel and hospitality sectors were hard-hit due to requirements for social distancing and wearing masks; Chair Powell emphasized that following public health guidelines was the only way that the COVID-19 virus could be controlled.
Mortgage Rates Mixed as Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported mixed movement for average mortgage rates with rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages three basis points lower at 2.78 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.32 percent and were unchanged. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.89 percent and were one basis point higher. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, and averaged 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Initial jobless claims fell to 751,000 last week as compared to the prior week’s reading of 758,000 first-time claims filed. Continuing jobless claims were also lower last week with 7.38 million continuing claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 7.81 million ongoing claims filed.
Public and Private Sector Job Growth Slows in October
ADP reported 365,000 private-sector jobs added in October as compared to 753,000 jobs added in September. The Commerce Department reported 638,000 public and private sector jobs added in October as compared to the prior month’s reading of 672,000 public and private sector jobs added. The National Unemployment rate was also lower at 6.90 percent, which was lower than the expected reading of 7.60 percent and the previous month’s reading of 7.90 percent.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly updates on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be released.