Last week, I reported an improvement in the labor market variables in the Leading Economic Index (LEI). After falling from mid-summer 2022, there was an improvement in the first two months of this year. Unfortunately, the main indicator of labor market health, employment, has yet to show signs of recovery. As suggested by the decline in the LEI since mid-summer, employment in the Augusta MSA has fallen from 245,200 in November to 241,000 in March (see graph).
Education and health services, professional and business services and transportation and utilities all saw job losses in March compared to February. Manufacturing, retail, financial activities, leisure and hospitality and government sectors were all flat. Mining, logging and construction were the only major sectors that added jobs in March, but just 100. Other labor market data available for March paints a grey picture. Average weekly earnings fell from $996 in February to $937 in March.
Hopefully, the uptick in the LEI will result in real improvement in the labor market over the next three to six months.