March Economic Trends
Released May 9, 2013. For further information contact Economic Research Director BRET MAYBORNE at (414) 287.4122.
>>View PDF of full report.
The majority of Milwaukee area economic indicators showed improvement in March as 15 of 23 indicators pointed upward compared to year-ago levels, according to a monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). March’s total ranks above the revised 14 upward pointing indicators registered in February.
“The Milwaukee area continued on its modest pace of economic improvement in March,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director. “For the 14th consecutive month a majority of local indicators improved from year-ago levels but the aggregate percentage of improved indicators has rarely popped above the 70% mark over the past two years.”
|"For the 14th consecutive month, a majority of local indicators improved from year-ago levels, but the aggregate percentage of improved indicators rarely popped above the 70% mark over the past two years."
of Economic Research
Highlights of the report include:
• Nonfarm jobs in metro Milwaukee increased at a 0.4% pace in March vs. year-ago levels. March’s increase marks the slowest year-over-year employment growth rate posted since April, 2012.
• Four of ten major industry sectors registered year-over-year job increases in March. The construction, mining and natural resources sector posted the largest gain – up 9.4% vs. year-ago levels. Conversely, five of ten major industry sectors posted employment declines with a 1% drop in the leisure & hospitality sector ranking as the biggest percentage fall. Employment in the information sector was unchanged in this period.
• New-car registrations in the metro area continue to trend strongly upwards. Registrations rose 25.2% in March (vs. March, 2012), this indicator’s 10th consecutive month of year-over-year increase.
Unemployment indicators for March moved in a positive direction. The number of unemployed fell 0.8% vs. year-ago levels (to 61,900) after increasing in each of the previous two months. Further, new unemployment compensation claims fell 4.9%, to 4,839, this indicator’s 14th consecutive month of year-over-year decline.
Metro Milwaukee’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point in the March, 2012 to March, 2013 period. Metro Milwaukee’s rate averaged 7.8% in March, slightly higher than the 7.6% rates posted both statewide and for the nation as a whole.
Indicators: March 2013 vs. March 2013
Nonfarm employment levels in the metro area averaged 814,500 in March, a net gain of 3,300 jobs from one year ago. March’s percentage increase of 0.4% is down from the 0.8% increase registered in February (vs. February, 2012) and marks the slowest year-over-year job growth recorded since April of 2012.
Major industry sectors with March job declines outnumber those posting increases. Five of ten major sectors registered year-over-year job declines, four posted gains while one, the information sector, was unchanged from year-ago levels.
Job declines were relatively modest in size, with four of the five sector declines measuring less than 1%. The largest percentage decline was registered in the leisure & hospitality sector, down 1%, to 66,600. Job declines were also recorded in the financial activities (down 0.7%), trade, transportation and utilities (down 0.4%), professional & business services (down 0.4%), and manufacturing (down 0.1%) sectors.
Four of ten major industry sectors posted job gains in March. Jobs in the construction, mining and natural resources sector rose at a 9.4% pace, to 23,200 – this sector’s fourth consecutive month of year-over-year gain. The government (up 2%), other services (up 1%), and education & health services (up 0.8%) sectors also posted employment gains.
While the manufacturing sector has posted modest job declines in consecutive months, hours and earnings indicators in manufacturing continue to trend upward. A production worker’s average workweek increased 3.8% in March to 43.9 hours following a 5.8% increase in February (vs. February, 2012). Average weekly earnings, up 8%, and average hourly earnings, up 4.1%, both registered March gains significantly higher than national consumer price inflation over the same time period (up 1.5%).
Milwaukee area housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC were mixed in March. Existing home sales for the metro area rose 9.8% over year-ago levels (to 1,176) following a 13% increase in February. On the other hand, mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County numbered 2,651 in March, down 1% from one year ago and this indicator’s first decline in four months.
New-car registrations in the metro area totaled 2,691 in March, up 25.2% from year-ago. March’s increase follows the 23.9% gain posted in February and marks the indicator’s tenth consecutive month of year-over-year increase. Air passengers using Mitchell International Airport fell 18.5% in March, to 601,312.
Other Indicators (latest available)
The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for February, was $95.4 million, up 136.7% from February, 2012. Consumer prices nationally, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U), rose 1.5% in March (vs. March, 2012) to 232.773 (1981-84=100). The Milwaukee area CPI-U reached 222.114 for the second half of 2012, a 1.8% increase from 2011’s second half.