- Payroll employment rises by 311,000 in February.
- Job openings ease from upwardly revised figures.
- Mortgage rates rise again in the latest week.
- Diesel prices fall slightly in the latest week.
- Trucking sees a sharp drop in payroll jobs.
- Van spot rates see sharpest increase of the year.
- Intermodal volumes remain weak.
- Rail carload volumes were strong due to coal.
- Industry focuses on developments in Washington.
Although the economy did not match the seasonally adjusted job growth seen in January, the 311,000 jobs added in February represented a solid gain and the strongest performance since October aside from the revised 502,000 jobs added in January. Payroll employment is now just under 3 million jobs, or 2%, above the pre-pandemic month of February 2022, although it still lags the growth trend in place prior to the pandemic.
The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% from January’s 3.4%, which had been the lowest in more than 50 years. The unemployment level increased by 242,000, but one factor was the labor participation rate, which edged up to 62.5%. Although that rate still trails the February 2020 rate significantly, it is the highest since March 2020.
Leisure and hospitality posted the strongest growth, adding 105,000 jobs, seasonally adjusted. That sector was hit hardest by the pandemic, but it also frequently is the sector with the strongest gains month over month. Leisure and hospitality remains the sector furthest from full recovery, but that deficit is down to 410,000 jobs versus February 2020. As recently as August, that deficit was over 1 million.
Only three sectors – information, manufacturing, and financial services – saw a m/m decline in jobs. Information saw the biggest drop by far at 25,000 payroll jobs. The largest share of that sector’s decline was in motion picture and sound recording industries, but jobs were down in all categories.
The 38,000-job increase in trade, transportation, and utilities came in retail and wholesale trade as transportation and warehousing employment fell by 21,500 jobs. Job openings declined 3.6% in January to 10.8 million, seasonally adjusted. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised data back to January 2018 due to annual updates, resulting in an increase in the initial December estimate by 222,000. Following the revision, March 2022 remains the peak of job openings, but the figure is higher at just over 12 million. January job openings were down 5.8% y/y but were still 54.7% higher than in February 2020.
Job quits in January fell 5.1% to 3.9 million, which is the lowest level since May 2021. Quits remain more than 11% higher than in February 2020, down from a peak of nearly 29% in April 2022.
Mortgage rates continued to climb in the latest week. The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 6.73%, which is the highest since the week ended November 10. Freddie Mac attributed rising rates to signals from the Federal Reserve that it will continue an aggressive monetary policy.
Diesel and petroleum prices
The national average price of diesel dipped 1.2 cents during the week ended March 6 to $4.282 a gallon, bringing the total decrease over the past five weeks to 34 cents a gallon. Prices were down on average in all regions except for the Gulf Coast, where prices were flat, and the Midwest, where prices ticked up by about a cent.
The y/y comparison in the latest week swung to nearly 57 cents lower from 19 cents higher y/y in the prior week due to the record 74.5-cent surge in prices that occurred in the first week of March 2022 following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.