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Housing Market Tracker: Inventory is negative YOY

Housing inventory finally broke under 2022 levels. In this period in 2022, active listings grew 30,940 while this year they only grew 5,848.



Housing inventory finally broke under 2022 levels last week. To give you an idea how different this year is from last year, last week in 2022, active listings grew 30,940 while this year they only grew 5,848. Mortgage rates rose last week after the better-than-anticipated jobless claims data but even with higher rates, we also had a third week of positive purchase application data.

Here’s a quick rundown of last week:

  • Active inventory grew by a disappointing 5,848 weekly 
  • Mortgage rates went above 7% again after better labor data 
  • Purchase application data showed 3% growth week to week

Weekly housing inventory

On May 15, I went on CNBC and talked about how inventory growth in 2023 resembled a zombie from the show The Walking Dead, slowly trying to rise from the grave. Since May 15, that trend has continued to the point that inventory in America is now negative year over year.

We have often discussed that the housing market dynamics changed starting Nov. 9, 2022, and today you can see the final result of that dynamic shift as inventory is now negative versus the 2022 data — all before July 4th. I recently recapped this crazy period on the HousingWire Daily podcast, going into detail about what happened in housing over the last year.

  • Weekly inventory change (June 23-30): Inventory rose from 459,907-465,755
  • Same week last year (June 24-July 1): Inventory rose from 441,106 to 472,046
  • The inventory bottom for 2022 was 240,194
  • The inventory peak for 2023 so far is 472,688
  • For context, active listings for this week in 2015 were 1,183,390

Seeing negative year-over-year inventory before July 4 would be a big deal if last year wasn’t so crazy. However, I need to put some context into what happened in 2022. In March of 2022 we had the lowest inventory levels ever recorded in history. Then in a short amount time, we had the biggest and fastest mortgage rate spike in history, which facilitated the biggest one-year crash in home sales in history, which helped inventory grow faster than normal in 2022. 

So the fact that housing demand stabilized and inventory is now negative year over year needs the context that 2022 was a once-in-a-lifetime event. As you can see in the chart below, 2023 inventory growth is very slow compared to 2022.

The other big story with housing inventory is that new listing data has been trending negative year over year since the end of June 2022. A traditional seller is also a traditional buyer, and certain homeowners have refused to buy their next home with mortgage rates above 6%.

We had new listings growth from 2021 to 2022, but that’s not the case this year. This is another variable contributing to slow inventory growth, which has now turned negative in the weekly listings.

Compare the new listings data last week to the same week in recent years:

  • 2023: 62,466
  • 2022: 91,530
  • 2021: 80,289

My concern lately is that we have seen four straight weeks of mild declines and are about to head into the seasonal decline period of new listings. This is one data line I will track like a hawk because it will be a negative for the housing market if this data line makes a noticeable year-over-year decline trend in the second half of 2023.

The 10-year yield and mortgage rates

For those who have followed the weekly Housing Market Tracker articles, I always focus on jobless claims data as it’s the critical data line at this point of the economic cycle for me and my forecast in 2023 for mortgage rates.

Last week we had a big move in the 10-year yield because jobless claims came in better than anticipated, and bond traders were caught off guard selling bonds on the news and sending mortgage rates above 7% again. As you can see in the chart below, that big spike was really about jobless claims getting better.

The following day, the PCE inflation data showed a cooling down in headline inflation year over year. Core PCE inflation is a bit more sticky than headline inflation, however, bond yields fell after that report and bounced back at the end of the day.

In my 2023 forecast, I wrote that if the economy stays firm, the 10-year yield range should be between 3.21% and 4.25%, equating to mortgage rates between 5.75% and 7.25%. As long as jobless claims trend below 323,000 on the four-week moving average, the labor market stays firm, which means the economy remains healthy. Jobless claims have stayed below this range all year, and job openings are still at 10 million. 

I have also stressed that the 10-year level between 3.37% and 3.42% would be hard to break lower. I call it the Gandalf line in the sand: You shall not pass. The setup for the 10-year yield to stay in the range is intact.

The counter to my 10-year yield range would be if the economy here or worldwide starts to accelerate higher; that would be a valid premise to get the 10-year yield above 4.25%.  Considering our economy this year, the 10-year yield and mortgage rates look about right to me.

Now the one thing that has changed in 2023 is that since the banking crisis, the spreads between the 10-year and mortgage rates have worsened, making mortgage rates higher than I anticipated versus the 10-year yield, which is not a positive for the housing market.

We haven’t seen anything in the data showing that it’s been improving recently. This is a big deal as we have seen housing inventory not get much traction with higher rates and hopefully in the future, lower rates can entice some sellers to move.

On jobless claims data, I always stress using the four-week moving average with this data line because we do have times when this data line can get hectic week to week. Therefore, I only believe the low jobless claims print once I see weeks of this data line improving. So, it will be critical over the next two weeks to see if this decline was a one-time blip in the data, which we have seen from time to time. As you can see below, that was a significant drop week to week, which looks abnormal to me.

Purchase application data

Purchase application data has surprised people with three weeks in a row of growth, while mortgage rates have been near 7% during this period. This now makes the positive count since Nov. 9, 2022, 20 positive prints vs. 11 negative prints. The year-to-date numbers are 13 positive vs. 11 negatives after making some holiday adjustments to the data line.

What do these numbers mean? They just mean that housing data has stabilized; nothing in the data shows decent growth after that first good move from November to February. However, the fact that housing demand has stabilized is a big deal because last year, we did have a waterfall collapse in the data, as shown in the chart below. The only downside to this is that we haven’t had the housing inventory growth I would like.

Now the year-over-year decline was down to -21%, which was the lowest since Aug. 24, 2022. However, we all have to remember that the second half of 2023 will have much easier comps, so even if demand stayed the same the rest of the year we will have some positive year-over-year data at some point. 

Be careful in reading too much into the better year-over-year data we will see in the future. The most recent pending home sales print came in as a miss from estimates, but the existing home sales data is still trending in the range I thought it would be in since I believed that first big print we had a few months ago was going to be the peak for year. When demand is coming back in a big way, purchase apps will be positive for a majority of the weeks as we are working from such low levels today historically.

The week ahead: Jobs, jobs and jobs data

Yes, it’s jobs week once again and with four labor reports coming up on this short holiday week, we’ll be able to see if the Federal Reserve is getting what it wants — a softer labor market. Recently, Fed Chair Powell once again stressed that the labor market is too tight and that softer labor is the way to get inflation down to the Fed’s 2% core PCE target.

Well, we have four reports this week: the job openings data (JOLTS), the ADP jobs report, jobless claims and the big one on Friday — the BLS job report — so we’ll see what happens.

So much of my COVID-19 recovery model was based on the labor dynamics being much different now, since I was the only person talking about job openings getting to 10 million in this recovery. Today as I write this, we are still at 10 million job openings, as the chart below shows.

I have a firm belief that the Fed doesn’t fear a big job-loss recession as long as job openings are this high. What they have enjoyed seeing is wage growth cooling down, as shown in the BLS job reports for 18 months now. So, for this week, we always focus on jobless claims data over everything else, but be mindful of the job openings data since the Fed wants to see this go down, and the wage growth in the BLS jobs report data.

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February Employment Situation

By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000…



By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert

The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000 average over the previous 12 months. The payroll data for January and December were revised down by a total of 167,000. The private sector added 223,000 new jobs, the largest gain since May of last year.

Temporary help services employment continues a steep decline after a sharp post-pandemic rise.

Average hours of work increased from 34.2 to 34.3. The increase, along with the 223,000 private employment increase led to a hefty increase in total hours of 5.6% at an annualized rate, also the largest increase since May of last year.

The establishment report, once again, beat “expectations;” the WSJ survey of economists was 198,000. Other than the downward revisions, mentioned above, another bit of negative news was a smallish increase in wage growth, from $34.52 to $34.57.

The household survey shows that the labor force increased 150,000, a drop in employment of 184,000 and an increase in the number of unemployed persons of 334,000. The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.5, the employment to population ratio decreased from 60.2 to 60.1 and the unemployment rate increased from 3.66 to 3.86. Remember that the unemployment rate is the number of unemployed relative to the labor force (the number employed plus the number unemployed). Consequently, the unemployment rate can go up if the number of unemployed rises holding fixed the labor force, or if the labor force shrinks holding the number unemployed unchanged. An increase in the unemployment rate is not necessarily a bad thing: it may reflect a strong labor market drawing “marginally attached” individuals from outside the labor force. Indeed, there was a 96,000 decline in those workers.

Earlier in the week, the BLS announced JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data for January. There isn’t much to report here as the job openings changed little at 8.9 million, the number of hires and total separations were little changed at 5.7 million and 5.3 million, respectively.

As has been the case for the last couple of years, the number of job openings remains higher than the number of unemployed persons.

Also earlier in the week the BLS announced that productivity increased 3.2% in the 4th quarter with output rising 3.5% and hours of work rising 0.3%.

The bottom line is that the labor market continues its surprisingly (to some) strong performance, once again proving stronger than many had expected. This strength makes it difficult to justify any interest rate cuts soon, particularly given the recent inflation spike.

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Mortgage rates fall as labor market normalizes

Jobless claims show an expanding economy. We will only be in a recession once jobless claims exceed 323,000 on a four-week moving average.



Everyone was waiting to see if this week’s jobs report would send mortgage rates higher, which is what happened last month. Instead, the 10-year yield had a muted response after the headline number beat estimates, but we have negative job revisions from previous months. The Federal Reserve’s fear of wage growth spiraling out of control hasn’t materialized for over two years now and the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9%. For now, we can say the labor market isn’t tight anymore, but it’s also not breaking.

The key labor data line in this expansion is the weekly jobless claims report. Jobless claims show an expanding economy that has not lost jobs yet. We will only be in a recession once jobless claims exceed 323,000 on a four-week moving average.

From the Fed: In the week ended March 2, initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits were flat, at 217,000. The four-week moving average declined slightly by 750, to 212,250

Below is an explanation of how we got here with the labor market, which all started during COVID-19.

1. I wrote the COVID-19 recovery model on April 7, 2020, and retired it on Dec. 9, 2020. By that time, the upfront recovery phase was done, and I needed to model out when we would get the jobs lost back.

2. Early in the labor market recovery, when we saw weaker job reports, I doubled and tripled down on my assertion that job openings would get to 10 million in this recovery. Job openings rose as high as to 12 million and are currently over 9 million. Even with the massive miss on a job report in May 2021, I didn’t waver.

Currently, the jobs openings, quit percentage and hires data are below pre-COVID-19 levels, which means the labor market isn’t as tight as it once was, and this is why the employment cost index has been slowing data to move along the quits percentage.  


3. I wrote that we should get back all the jobs lost to COVID-19 by September of 2022. At the time this would be a speedy labor market recovery, and it happened on schedule, too

Total employment data

4. This is the key one for right now: If COVID-19 hadn’t happened, we would have between 157 million and 159 million jobs today, which would have been in line with the job growth rate in February 2020. Today, we are at 157,808,000. This is important because job growth should be cooling down now. We are more in line with where the labor market should be when averaging 140K-165K monthly. So for now, the fact that we aren’t trending between 140K-165K means we still have a bit more recovery kick left before we get down to those levels. 

From BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 275,000 in February, and the unemployment rate increased to 3.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in health care, in government, in food services and drinking places, in social assistance, and in transportation and warehousing.

Here are the jobs that were created and lost in the previous month:


In this jobs report, the unemployment rate for education levels looks like this:

  • Less than a high school diploma: 6.1%
  • High school graduate and no college: 4.2%
  • Some college or associate degree: 3.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher: 2.2%

Today’s report has continued the trend of the labor data beating my expectations, only because I am looking for the jobs data to slow down to a level of 140K-165K, which hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t categorize the labor market as being tight anymore because of the quits ratio and the hires data in the job openings report. This also shows itself in the employment cost index as well. These are key data lines for the Fed and the reason we are going to see three rate cuts this year.

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Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Last month we though that the January…



Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Last month we though that the January jobs report was the "most ridiculous in recent history" but, boy, were we wrong because this morning the Biden department of goalseeked propaganda (aka BLS) published the February jobs report, and holy crap was that something else. Even Goebbels would blush. 

What happened? Let's take a closer look.

On the surface, it was (almost) another blockbuster jobs report, certainly one which nobody expected, or rather just one bank out of 76 expected. Starting at the top, the BLS reported that in February the US unexpectedly added 275K jobs, with just one research analyst (from Dai-Ichi Research) expecting a higher number.

Some context: after last month's record 4-sigma beat, today's print was "only" 3 sigma higher than estimates. Needless to say, two multiple sigma beats in a row used to only happen in the USSR... and now in the US, apparently.

Before we go any further, a quick note on what last month we said was "the most ridiculous jobs report in recent history": it appears the BLS read our comments and decided to stop beclowing itself. It did that by slashing last month's ridiculous print by over a third, and revising what was originally reported as a massive 353K beat to just 229K,  a 124K revision, which was the biggest one-month negative revision in two years!

Of course, that does not mean that this month's jobs print won't be revised lower: it will be, and not just that month but every other month until the November election because that's the only tool left in the Biden admin's box: pretend the economic and jobs are strong, then revise them sharply lower the next month, something we pointed out first last summer and which has not failed to disappoint once.

To be fair, not every aspect of the jobs report was stellar (after all, the BLS had to give it some vague credibility). Take the unemployment rate, after flatlining between 3.4% and 3.8% for two years - and thus denying expectations from Sahm's Rule that a recession may have already started - in February the unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped to 3.9%, the highest since February 2022 (with Black unemployment spiking by 0.3% to 5.6%, an indicator which the Biden admin will quickly slam as widespread economic racism or something).

And then there were average hourly earnings, which after surging 0.6% MoM in January (since revised to 0.5%) and spooking markets that wage growth is so hot, the Fed will have no choice but to delay cuts, in February the number tumbled to just 0.1%, the lowest in two years...

... for one simple reason: last month's average wage surge had nothing to do with actual wages, and everything to do with the BLS estimate of hours worked (which is the denominator in the average wage calculation) which last month tumbled to just 34.1 (we were led to believe) the lowest since the covid pandemic...

... but has since been revised higher while the February print rose even more, to 34.3, hence why the latest average wage data was once again a product not of wages going up, but of how long Americans worked in any weekly period, in this case higher from 34.1 to 34.3, an increase which has a major impact on the average calculation.

While the above data points were examples of some latent weakness in the latest report, perhaps meant to give it a sheen of veracity, it was everything else in the report that was a problem starting with the BLS's latest choice of seasonal adjustments (after last month's wholesale revision), which have gone from merely laughable to full clownshow, as the following comparison between the monthly change in BLS and ADP payrolls shows. The trend is clear: the Biden admin numbers are now clearly rising even as the impartial ADP (which directly logs employment numbers at the company level and is far more accurate), shows an accelerating slowdown.

But it's more than just the Biden admin hanging its "success" on seasonal adjustments: when one digs deeper inside the jobs report, all sorts of ugly things emerge... such as the growing unprecedented divergence between the Establishment (payrolls) survey and much more accurate Household (actual employment) survey. To wit, while in January the BLS claims 275K payrolls were added, the Household survey found that the number of actually employed workers dropped for the third straight month (and 4 in the past 5), this time by 184K (from 161.152K to 160.968K).

This means that while the Payrolls series hits new all time highs every month since December 2020 (when according to the BLS the US had its last month of payrolls losses), the level of Employment has not budged in the past year. Worse, as shown in the chart below, such a gaping divergence has opened between the two series in the past 4 years, that the number of Employed workers would need to soar by 9 million (!) to catch up to what Payrolls claims is the employment situation.

There's more: shifting from a quantitative to a qualitative assessment, reveals just how ugly the composition of "new jobs" has been. Consider this: the BLS reports that in February 2024, the US had 132.9 million full-time jobs and 27.9 million part-time jobs. Well, that's great... until you look back one year and find that in February 2023 the US had 133.2 million full-time jobs, or more than it does one year later! And yes, all the job growth since then has been in part-time jobs, which have increased by 921K since February 2023 (from 27.020 million to 27.941 million).

Here is a summary of the labor composition in the past year: all the new jobs have been part-time jobs!

But wait there's even more, because now that the primary season is over and we enter the heart of election season and political talking points will be thrown around left and right, especially in the context of the immigration crisis created intentionally by the Biden administration which is hoping to import millions of new Democratic voters (maybe the US can hold the presidential election in Honduras or Guatemala, after all it is their citizens that will be illegally casting the key votes in November), what we find is that in February, the number of native-born workers tumbled again, sliding by a massive 560K to just 129.807 million. Add to this the December data, and we get a near-record 2.4 million plunge in native-born workers in just the past 3 months (only the covid crash was worse)!

The offset? A record 1.2 million foreign-born (read immigrants, both legal and illegal but mostly illegal) workers added in February!

Said otherwise, not only has all job creation in the past 6 years has been exclusively for foreign-born workers...

Source: St Louis Fed FRED Native Born and Foreign Born

... but there has been zero job-creation for native born workers since June 2018!

This is a huge issue - especially at a time of an illegal alien flood at the southwest border...

... and is about to become a huge political scandal, because once the inevitable recession finally hits, there will be millions of furious unemployed Americans demanding a more accurate explanation for what happened - i.e., the illegal immigration floodgates that were opened by the Biden admin.

Which is also why Biden's handlers will do everything in their power to insure there is no official recession before November... and why after the election is over, all economic hell will finally break loose. Until then, however, expect the jobs numbers to get even more ridiculous.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/08/2024 - 13:30

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