Insights from the 12-19-23 Commercial Pulse Report – Inflation Rates Down; All Eyes on Holiday Spending

Published: December 19, 2023 by Emily Garman

The November jobs report paints a picture of a robust yet nuanced job market.

While job gains and a low unemployment rate inspire optimism for a soft-landing scenario, the cooling employment growth reflects the impact of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes on consumer and business activities. Labor shortages are gradually easing, but challenges persist, particularly in the service sector. Wage growth is slowing down, offering relief from recent highs and contributing to the mitigation of inflationary pressures. Moreover, a new layer of complexity emerges with a rise in layoffs, totaling over 16 million in the first 10 months of the year, representing a 12% increase from 2022. Although layoffs are expected to rise further as the job market normalizes, projections indicate that the numbers will stay “well within the norm.”

Examining specific sectors reveals unique dynamics. The health care industry, propelled by long-term structural factors, continues to add jobs, providing stability to the overall economy. Conversely, the retail trade sector experiences job losses despite strong sales, signaling the industry’s transition to online channels and COVID-related changes in retail behavior. Navigating this intricate
landscape requires keen insight into sector-specific trends and an awareness of the evolving dynamics shaping the broader economic trajectory.

What I am watching:

Following the positive November inflation and labor market reports, the Federal Reserve did not change interest rates at their December meeting. After the aggressive interest rate increases since March 2022, this is now the third consecutive meeting with no change, but the Fed indicated that there will be multiple rate cuts beginning in 2024 and beyond.

One key to the economy will be how consumers approach holiday spending. With consumer confidence low and news of upcoming layoffs, people may tighten their belts, thereby slowing the economy.

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