5/21: EconUpdate by P. Duffy

EconUpdate by P. Duffy

April Leading Economic Index rises sharply to surpass pre-pandemic peak

What does this mean?  While the overall index has more than recovered its pandemic-related losses, the job market and production output still have room to run.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased by 1.6 percent in April to 113.3, following a 1.3 percent increase in March and a 0.1 percent decline in February, and surpassing its previous peak in January 2020.  While employment and production have not recovered to their pre-pandemic levels yet, the U.S. LEI suggests the economy’s upward trend should continue and growth may even accelerate in the near term.


Initial unemployment claims drop 7.1 percent

What does this mean?  Although continued claims in the previous week did rise 3.0 percent, the downward trend for initial claims and claims in all programs point to a steadily recovering job market.

In the week ending May 15, initial unemployment claims were 444,000, a decrease of 34,000, or 7.1 percent, from the previous week’s revised level.  Continued claims during the week ending May 8 were 3,751,000, an increase of 111,000, or 3.0 percent, from the previous week’s revised level. The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending May 1 was 15,975,448, a decrease of 886,568, or 5.3 percent, from the previous week.


Online sales grew 39.1 percent year-on-year in 1Q21 versus 16.8 percent for all retail sales

What does this mean?  The rapid growth in online sales during the pandemic will mean more challenges for brick and mortar retailers.

While overall retail sales rebounded 16.8% from the same quarter of 2020, e-commerce sales rose 39.1%, or well more than twice as fast.  While overall retail sales rose 7.8% from 4Q20, e-commerce sales rose 7.7%, suggesting that online retailers will continue to hold their own even as consumers begin to venture out more as the economy reopens. The share of seasonally adjusted e-commerce sales vs. all retail sales was 13.6% in 1Q21, down from the last peak of 15.7% in 2Q20 during pandemic shutdowns, but up sharply from 11.4% in 1Q20.