Retail sales edge up
Retail sales were up 0.5% in March, according to the Department of Commerce retail sales report issued April 14. Compared with the same period a year earlier, retail sales were up 6.9% in March.
Building material sales were up 0.5% for the month of March and up 0.5% compared with March 2021, while auto sales dropped 2.1% for the month and 1.6% from a year earlier; department store sales were down 0.3% for the month but up 7.4% from a year earlier. Non-store retailers (primarily online) fell off dramatically in March, down 6.4% for the month, but were still 1.8% higher than a year earlier.
Sales for food services and drinking places edged up 1.0% in March and were up 19.4% from a year earlier with more Americans returning to bars and restaurants as Covid-19 restrictions eased.
Employment growth continues
Employers added 428,000 new jobs in April, according to the Employment Situation Report issued May 6 by the Department of Labor. That followed solid job growth of 431,000 new jobs in March, 750,000 new jobs in February, and 504,000 new jobs in January. The unemployment rate remained the same at 3.6%, as more people seeking work entered the job market.
Employment growth was solid across multiple industries, led by leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing. Total number of unemployed persons remained unchanged at 5.9 million, which is very close to the 5.7 million unemployed persons prior to the pandemic in February 2020. But the demand for workers has continued to rise this year – reaching a record 11.5 million job openings in March – as employers vied for qualified workers to fill vacancies.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was up $0.10 per hour in April at $31.85 per hour. Over the past 12 months, average earnings have increased by 5.5%.
Consumer Staples only positive sector in April
The Consumer Staples sector of the S&P 500, which moved up 2.56% in April, was the only sector in positive territory for the month. It was also one of only three sectors above water for the year, up 1.53%. The other positive sectors through the first four months of 2022 were Energy, up 36.89%, and Utilities, up 0.32%. Technology stocks were battered in April, with Information Technology down 11.28% and Communications Services down 15.62%.
The chart below shows the results of the 11 sectors for the past month and year to date: