Today’s U.S. and Canadian Data

March 9, 2012

The United States and Canada each reported jobs and trade statistics this morning.

The U.S. February labor market report was encouraging in most respects, while Canada’s was disappointing for a fourth straight month.  U.S. unemployment as expected held at 8.3%, which is an improvement nonetheless of 0.6 percentage points (ppts) from October and 1.2 ppts from a year earlier.  The broadest gauge of un- and under-employment, 14.9%, was down from 15.1% in January, 16.0% in October and 16.7% last February.

Canadian unemployment fell from 7.6% in January to 7.4% only because of the greatest exodus of workers from the labor force in 25 months.  Unemployment was no lower than in November and above September’s 7.1% rate.

U.S. jobs have climbed more than 200K in each of the past three reported months, averaging 245K per month over the period, the strongest 3-month rate of increase since March-May 2010.  Such compares to 157K per month in the prior three months to November 2011 and 88K per month in June-August of last year.  2.02 million jobs were created over the past year, a rise of 1.5%.  Average hourly earnings, up 0.1% on month and 1.9% on year, continue to show lethargic growth unfortunately.

Canadian employment dropped 2.8% last month following an uptick of 2.3% in January, a rise of 17.5K in December and a loss of 18.6K in November.  On-year job growth of 0.7% has been only about half as much as experienced in the United States.  Average wage earnings were 2.2% higher than in February 2011.

The U.S. $52.6 billion goods and services trade deficit in January was the largest in 39 months and 12.6% wider than the average trade shortfall in 2011.  Merchandise trade commerce generated a $67.5 billion deficit and encompassed a 0.9% monthly drop in exports.  Countries in the Pacific Rim accounted for 49.8% of January’s deficit, including China’s 39.9% share and Japan’s of 9.5%.  The monthly deficit with OPEC climbed above 10K.

Canada recorded a third straight trade surplus in January.  In spite of a CAD 1.2 billion increase in the energy surplus to CAD 7.4 billion, the overall size of the surplus narrowed 26.6% on month to CAD 2.1 billion.  Exports of industrial goods and materials and machinery and equipment each dropped 11.9% between December and January, and non-auto consumer goods fell by 6.3% on month. 

Canada also released quarterly data on labor productivity and unit labor costs.  The former went up 0.7% in 4Q, while the latter went up 0.8% and fell by 3.4% when translated into U.S. dollars.  Relative to the final quarter of 2010, productivity climbed 1.1%, and unit labor costs increased 1.7% (0.6% in USD).  2006 was the first calendar year in five in which Canada had faster productivity growth than the United States and a smaller increase in unit labor costs.

U.S. wholesale inventories grew 0.4% in January, somewhat less than expected and about a third as much as the rise in December.

Copyright 2012, Larry Greenberg.  All rights reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.

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