Several indicators when gauging health of economy
I’m often asked about what reports or news that I think are the most important when gauging the health of our economy. Following are the 10 most important in my opinion.
Jobless Claims. The number of people who file for unemployment benefits in a given week. This data is collected by the Department of Labor, and published as a weekly report. The number of jobless claims is used as a measure of the health of the job market.
Non-Farm Payroll. A statistic gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which represents the payroll data for the bulk of the U.S. The employees that are not included in this report include government employees, nonprofit employees, individuals who work within a private household, and farm employees. This calculation represents roughly 80 percent of the U.S. work force.
Consumer Price Index (CPI). An inflation indicator that measures the change in the cost of a fixed basket of products and services, that include: housing, electricity, food, and transportation. The CPI is published monthly. It’s also been called the cost-of-living index.
Producer Price Index (PPI). An inflationary indicator published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to uate wholesale price levels in the economy.
Beige Book. This report on current economic conditions is published by the Federal Reserve Board eight times each year. The Beige Book is part of the Federal Open Market Committee’s planning for its meetings. The book is a summary of economic conditions in each of the Fed’s regions and is primarily seen as an indicator of how the Fed might act at its upcoming meeting.
Housing Starts. The number of residential building construction projects begun during a specific period of time; usually a month.
Consumer Confidence Index. A measure of consumer optimism toward current economic conditions. The consumer confidence index was originally set at 100 and is adjusted monthly based on a survey of about 5,000 households. The index considers consumer opinion on both current conditions (40 percent of the index) and future expectations (the other percent).
Durable Goods Orders. A government report which measures consumer spending on long-term purchases that are expected to last more than three years. It is intended to act as a gauge for the future of the manufacturing industry.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year. This is figured out by adding total consumer, investment and government spending; plus thue of exports, minus thue of imports.
Retail Sales Index. A monthly measurement of all goods sold by retailers based on a sampling of retail stores of different types and sizes. The retail sales index is often taken as an indicator of consumer confidence.
These 10 reports, when studied objectively, can help spell out where our current economy is heading.
—Chip Gordy, MBA, CRPC is a
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