The COVID-19 Delta variant took its toll on jobs creation in August, according to data from the latest jobs report. The Labor Department shows just 235,000 jobs were added in August—well below the expectation of 720,000. CNBC’s own analysis shows that hiring in the services industry, including bars and restaurants, didn’t just slow down, it came to an “abrupt halt.” According to the Labor Department’s data, the leisure and hospitality sector added net zero jobs in August. That sector was increasing by about 350,000 monthly for the past six months. The unemployment rate did decrease to 5.2% from 5.4%.
Adding to the employment issues, an important deadline expired this past weekend as federal unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed, those out of work for six months or longer, came to an end. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows about 3.2 million Americans fall into that category.
This jobs report will likely have the biggest impact on the Federal Reserve’s plan to taper bond purchases. Previously, the Fed had stated it would need to see multiple strong jobs reports in a row before it would consider changing its monetary policy. July’s robust report gave the Fed confidence to bring up the tapering conversation at its last meeting.
Should the Fed hold off on tapering its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, that will likely help keep mortgage interest rates low and steady. The latest averages from Freddie Mac show that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage has stayed right around 2.87%. Freddie Mac’s analysts note “Economic growth and the acceleration in inflation have moderated in the last month, giving the markets comfort and leading to a stabilization in mortgage rates. Heading into the fall, home purchase demand is stable, home sales remain firm and above pre-pandemic levels, and inventory of unsold homes is tight but improving modestly. These factors will allow for home price pressures to ease over the remainder of the year.”
ASTRONOMICAL HOME PRICES SHATTER RECORDS
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but home prices just hit another record high. The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-schiller National Home Price Index rose by 18.6% annually in June. That is the largest gain since 1987, the year the data started being recorded, and up from May’s 16.8% increase. This is the third straight month that the index has recorded a record increase. As of July, the National Association of Realtors reports the median existing home sale price at $359,900. That’s an increase of about $150,000 over the last four years.
Home prices have been accelerating for 13 consecutive months as the demand for housing continues to outpace the supply of homes available. Managing directors and global head of index investment strategy for S&P Dow Jones indices, Craig J. Lazzara, said, “We have previously suggested that the strength in the U.S. housing market is being driven in part by reaction to the COVID pandemic, as potential buyers move from urban apartments to suburban homes. June’s data are consistent with this hypothesis.” Lazzara continued, saying “This demand surge may simply represent an acceleration of purchases that would have occurred anyway over the next several years.”