The Augusta Leading Economics Index has reversed its slide from the summer of 2022 to the end of the year. The latest data for February 2023 shows the index up 0.6 percent using a three-month moving average. The unadjusted change from January is much bigger at 1.9 percent. However, given the fall witnessed in the last two quarters of 2022, the index is below February 2022 levels.
Residential building permits increased in both January and February suggesting improvement in the overall housing market, including suppliers such as lumber, masonry and home furnishings.
In the labor market, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell in both January and February. In December, there were 1,729 new claims after seasonal adjustment and only 1,133 in February. Job openings in Georgia increased in both January and February. They increased from 357,000 in December to 421,000 in February, a level not seen since last summer. Unfortunately, job openings in South Carolina fell from 187,000 in December to 175,000 in February.
In the financial markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen slightly from December through the end of February. Inflation in the south continues to decline, if at an agonizingly slow rate. The south’s inflation rate was just over 7 percent in December and had fallen to 6.4 percent in February.
I am reading and hearing less mentions of recession in the national conversation and the evidence from the local economy suggests some improvement across a number of variables in the leading economic index. Whisper it quietly, but the threat of recession may be receding.