Jobs, housing, consumer and economy news that matters

Consumers are still spending, showing remarkable resilience. Retail sales rose 0.7% in September, coming off a strong 0.8% increase in August.

  • The strong jobs market and income growth that is on pace with inflation fuels spending.
  • Consumers using credit cards is also up.

Details: Big drivers of the gains in September were car sales, online purchases, and sales at miscellaneous retailers. Purchases at restaurants, bars, and gas stations were robust, too.

Big picture: A strong economy will keep consumers confident and spending. To strengthen the economy businesses need pro-growth policies that address the worker shortage and advance a bold trade agenda.

Labor Force Can’t Grow Fast Enough to Fill Job Openings

October 11, 2023

The job market continued to sizzle in September with 336,000 new jobs created – the vast majority created by the private sector. Also, job gains for July and August were revised up a combined 119,000. Workers made more as well with wages rising 0.2%, up 4.2% annually.

Why it matters: While the labor force continued growing, expanding by 90,000 in September, it’s not growing fast enough to fill millions of open jobs.

Be smart: Finding more workers is critical for businesses to grow and compete. More legal immigration is part of the solution, along with helping Americans get in-demand skills and removing barriers keeping people from entering the workforce.

By the numbers: The top five industries that added jobs in September were:

  • Leisure and Hospitality: 96,000
  • Government: 73,000
  • Education and Health: 70,000
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade: 31,000
  • Professional and Business Services: 21,000

Learn more:

Job Openings Rise, Tight Labor Market Continues

October 6, 2023

With the release of September jobs numbers this week, let’s look back at the last few months. After falling in June and July, job openings rose in August. The labor market remains tight.

  • Job openings were 9.6 million at the end of August, up 690,000 from July.
  • Businesses are still adding workers, and workers are still confident they can quit their jobs and find better ones easily.

Why it matters: As of the end of August there were 3.3 million more job openings than unemployed workers, 176,000 more than in July.

Big picture: The trend of more job openings than unemployed workers is likely to remain. Policymakers can address this by:

Dig deeper: The Chamber’s America Works Initiative is tackling these issues to help employers develop and discover the talent they need and advance economic opportunity.

Inflation Strains Consumer Spending Growth

October 4, 2023

Consumer spending has driven the remarkable economic growth we have seen this year. But there are signs consumers are starting to buckle under the weight of inflation.

Why it matters: Consumers continue defying economic analysts’ predictions that their spending ability was sapped.

By the numbers:

  • Inflation-adjusted spending was up 0.1%, essentially flat from July.
  • Inflation-adjusted spending on goods was down 0.2% with spending on bigger-ticket durable goods down 0.3%.
  • Spending on services rose 0.2% after inflation.

Be smart: While consumer spending was flat, consumer savings fell sharply in August. They have used credit cards and COVID-era savings to keep up with inflation, and their savings are likely depleted.

  • August could be an aberration, but with inflation remaining higher than the Federal Reserve wants, we should watch how consumers keep ahead of it.

Bottom line: Inflation may have come down from 40-year highs, but it continues to weigh on consumers. It is critical that policymakers work to ease the burden of higher prices by avoiding overregulation, addressing the workforce shortage, and reducing tariffs.

The High Price of a Government Shutdown

September 29, 2023

A big question floating out there is “How much will a government shutdown cost the economy?” How could my bottom line be affected if Congress does not pass a bill by the end of Saturday to keep funding the government?

Why it matters: A shutdown would impose significant costs on local communities and the national economy.

Details: Millions of federal government employees would not be paid during a shutdown, slowing their spending. Usually, they are paid once the shutdown ends, although there is no guarantee of this.

  • Restaurants, stores, and business service providers located around federal offices will see a decline in customers with federal workers on furlough.

Zooming out, recent government shutdowns have imposed significant costs on the economy:

  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, “the five-week partial government shutdown in 2018-2019 reduced economic output by $11 billion in the following two quarters—including $3 billion that the U.S. economy never regained.”
  • Moody’s Analytics estimated that the 2013 full government shutdown reduced GDP growth by $20 billion.

Bottom line: A shutdown would be costly to workers, businesses, and communities. But it is avoidable.

Home Prices Rising Again

September 27, 2023

Housing prices rose in July after falling slightly earlier this year. The small declines came after more than a year of high gains.

Why it matters: Many expected the housing market to cool more than it has since interest rates started rising in early 2022.

  • But housing remains strong, and prices are on the upswing because demand outpaces supply.
  • High mortgage rates – now over 7% on average nationally – are causing would-be homeowners to stay put, keeping housing inventory scarce.

Be smart: This shows that America needs to increase its housing supply and make homes more affordable. Part of that solution involves reforming local zoning and permitting rules.

Looking ahead: Mortgage rates are likely to remain high as the Federal Reserve continues battling high inflation. Look for housing to remain scarce and prices to continue their upward march.

Read more from the Chamber:

  • Economic Data: Comprehensive quantitative snapshots of business sectors and topics to help business and political leaders make informed decisions.
  • Workforce Data:Capturing the current state of the U.S. workforce.
  • Small Business Index: The MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index is released on a quarterly basis and is compiled from 750 unique online interviews with small business owners and operators each quarter. The Index delivers a comprehensive quantitative snapshot of the small business sector as well as explores small business owners’ perspectives on the latest economic and business trends.
  • Middle Market Business Index:The survey panel consists of approximately 1,500 middle market executives and is designed to accurately reflect conditions in the middle market.

About the authors

Curtis Dubay

Curtis Dubay

Curtis Dubay is Chief Economist, Economic Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He heads the Chamber’s research on the U.S. and global economies.

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