In my continued effort to bring good news to the Augusta metro area, I can report that after several months of declining job openings, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last week that job openings in August were up 27,000 (8%) in Georgia and 7,000 (4%) in South Carolina. However, the only other variable in the Augusta Leading Economic Index (LEI) that improved was residential housing permits, up six percent.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by ten percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Index fell 2 percent on the last day of August compared to the last day of July. Real deposits in local banks fell seven percent on increased inflation and lower savings. Deposits fell by 768 million as households ran down their post-COVID balances. The national savings rate, which peaked at 32 percent in April 2020 now stands at just 3.9 percent, lower than any point since the Great Recession. Consumers continue to spend money today and seem little concerned with saving for a rainy day, or an economic downturn.
Overall, the Augusta LEI eked out a small monthly gain, but the three-month moving average remains in negative territory. Over the past six months, the index is down 0.4 percent. However, this compares well with the U.S. Leading Economic Index produced by the Conference Board (upon which the Augusta LEI is based). The U.S. LEI fell 0.4 percent in August and is down 3.8 percent over the last six months.