The major economic data released this week was mostly weaker than expected, which reduced the outlook for future inflation. This was positive for mortgage rates, and they ended the week lower.
As expected, Friday’s key monthly Employment report was consistent with a slower pace of job creation from the very strong levels seen over the last couple of years. Against a consensus forecast of 145,000, the economy gained 136,000 jobs in September, and upward revisions added another 45,000 to the results for prior months. The unemployment rate, which is calculated based on surveys of workers, unexpectedly declined from 3.7% to 3.5%, which was the lowest level since 1969.
The other major component of the labor market report contained much less encouraging news, however. Average hourly earnings, an indicator of wage growth, were flat from August, far below the consensus for a substantial gain. They were 2.9% higher than a year ago, down from an annual rate of increase of 3.2% last month.
In addition to the disappointing wage data, two closely watched reports from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) released this week revealed weaker than expected economic growth. The ISM national services index, which covers the bulk of U.S. economic activity, showed a sharp drop to 52.6, which was the lowest level since August 2016. The ISM national manufacturing index declined to just 47.8, which was the worst reading since June 2009.
Looking ahead, The JOLTS report, which measures job openings and labor turnover rates, will be released on Wednesday. Fed officials value this data to help round out their view of the strength of the labor market. The minutes from the September 17 Fed meeting also will come out on Wednesday. These detailed minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials about future monetary policy and have the potential to move markets. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be released on Thursday. CPI is a widely followed monthly inflation report that looks at the price change for goods and services. In addition, news about the impeachment inquiry or the trade negotiations could influence mortgage rates.