The Augusta Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.4 percent in June, but remains 1.3 percent below its level of June 2022.
I use a three-month rolling average to smooth out very volatile local data. For example, residential building permits in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) have varied between 407 (August 2022) and 213 (December 2022) over the last year, even after seasonal adjustment, an almost 100% swing. In June, residential housing permits fell 10 percent from May. Residential building permits have been lower than the same month, one year earlier for each of the past seven months (see chart below).
Better news was reported by the Georgia Department of Labor with initial claims for unemployment insurance falling for the seventh straight month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 4.5 percent in June.
The other two components of the LEI were largely unchanged. A weighted average of job openings in Georgia and South Carolina remained unchanged at 315,000 and inflation in the South inched up 0.1 percentage points.
Because economic data is released at different times, we already know some of the July numbers, and they are not encouraging. Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by 33 percent and residential building permits fell another 7.7 percent. The last data to come out that I include in the LEI is job openings for Georgia and South Carolina. However, job openings for the South region fell 9 percent in July. Overall, I would expect the LEI to fall when all the July data is in.