Florida Economy Gains Momentum Heading into 2017

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

The Florida economy continues to run hot in the second half of 2016, supported by an acceleration in employment growth in the third quarter. Employment growth for most major Florida metro areas continues to outpace the national average and gains are being seen across most major sectors. In particular, Florida manufacturing has been surprisingly strong. While the U.S. has seen stagnant to declining manufacturing employment growth over the past year, Florida manufacturing employment increased, up 4.4 percent in the 12 months ending in September. Earlier this year the state legislature passed House Bill 7099 in support of state manufacturers, which made existing sales and use tax exemptions of eligible industrial machinery and equipment permanent. The state tourism sector is weathering the drag from the strengthening U.S. dollar, which makes Florida vacations more expensive for international visitors. Year-over-year employment growth in leisure and hospitality remains above 4 percent. While the U.S dollar has appreciated by 24.4 percent against the U.K. pound in the 12-months ending in October, accelerated by the U.K.’s vote to leave the E.U., the U.S. broad trade weighted dollar has begun to stabilize, up just 3.2 percent. The housing sector began to cool off a bit with slower construction employment growth and a tick down in multifamily construction in the third quarter. However, we expect a rebound in residential housing due to strong home demand, supported by a robust labor market and population growth. The Florida economy will be firing on “most cylinders” heading into 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Florida Economic Outlook, click here: FL Outlook 112016.


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Navigating California Growth into 2017

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

After a rocky start to 2016, the California economy has picked up momentum in the second half of the year. Stronger job prospects have drawn people into the state labor force at levels not seen in over a decade. California has pulled in an additional 379,000 potential workers into the state labor force in the 12 months ending in September, the strongest pace since January 2001. The improving California labor market has supported our expectations of moderate state economic growth this year. We expect California real gross domestic product to grow by 2.5 percent in 2016, outpacing our forecasted U.S. average growth of 1.6 percent.

While we expect California’s economy to continue to outpace the U.S. average in 2017, there are a number of uncertainties to our outlook over the next few years. At the local level, we are already seeing moderating year-over-year employment growth, off of 2015 highs, across the California major metropolitan areas. This is to be expected as the economic cycle matures. A tighter labor market can both limit the pool of job applicants and increase labor costs through upward pressure on wages, slowing down the pace of hiring. At the national and international level, the strong rhetoric on trade policy throughout the 2016 presidential election increases the uncertainty for industries tied to California imports and exports. Mexico, Canada, China and Japan are the top four markets for California exports, respectively. Therefore a shift in trade policy for NAFTA or future trade with China and the resolution to Trans-Pacific-Partnership could have a material impact on California regional economies.

For a PDF version of the complete California Economic Outlook, click here: CA Outlook 112016.

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Firmer Oil Prices Help Texas, But Recovery in Houston Will Be Slow

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

The price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil appears to be stabilizing in the range of $45 to $50 per barrel, providing a floor for drilling activity in Texas. The rig count for the state has bounced off the mid-May low of 173 active rigs, up to 268 by mid-November. Oil producers continue to gain efficiencies, pushing the marginal cost of production lower and so we expect to see ongoing moderate gains in the rig count and associated oil field activity through the end of this year and into early 2017. However, even as we write this, the spot price for WTI has slipped below $45, and there remains a worldwide glut of oil that may take a year or more to absorb, keeping downward pressure on prices. Oil storage in the U.S. is falling off its record peak from this past spring, but progress has been slow. Stronger-than-expected storage numbers in late October through early November brought prices down to $43 by mid-November. Fortunately for Texas, the state economy is fueled by more than just oil. Job growth over the last two years has been remarkably resilient, with just two months, March 2015 and March 2016, showing net job losses. This September the state added 38,300 jobs on net, which is above the monthly average for 2012 and 2013. The contrasting patterns in the state economy are seen in the comparison of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area and the Houston metropolitan area. Job growth in North Texas remains strong, up 3.8 percent in September over the previous 12 months. Job growth in the Houston MSA has slipped to just 0.5 percent year-over-year as of September. We look for a slow turnaround in Houston in 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Texas Economic Outlook, click here: TX Outlook 112016.

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Michigan Growth to Ease as Short-Term and Long-Term Drags Align

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

A key challenge in describing and forecasting the current Michigan economy is how to make comparisons relative to pre-recession performance. The reason for the difficulty is that Michigan did not “just” have to endure the Great Recession of 2007/08. The recession in Michigan started in the summer of 2002 and lingered through 2009. With the pace of job growth currently levelling off, it appears that Michigan has “recovered” from the Great Recession, but total employment remains about 360,000 jobs shy of the April 2000 peak. With the cooldown in job growth visible in 2016, the state has entered a post-recovery phase. The auto industry has restructured and national auto sales are cresting in the vicinity of an 18 million unit annual rate. Going forward it looks like both short-term and long-term forces will keep growth in check for Michigan. In the short-term the state’s key auto industry is looking at stable-to-declining sales over the next few years. Also, both Ford and GM are moving small car production out of Michigan. GM has just announced 840 lay-offs at the Lansing Grand River plant in response to the expected cooler trend in sales. Over the long-term, Michigan’s demographics are a fundamental constraint to growth. By 2005, Michigan’s population growth had slowed to zero. Recent estimates show state population for 2015Q2 to be about 134,000 below the peak from 2004Q3. Since 2000, when job growth began sliding, net migration for Michigan has been persistently negative. We expect the negative trend in net migration to continue as retirees move south and job growth eases with a maturing auto industry cycle.


For a PDF version of the complete Michigan Economic Outlook, click here: MI Outlook 112016.

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November 2016, Comerica Economic Outlook

November 7, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

U.S. Data Green Lights Fed for December Rate Hike

After a weak first half of the year, third quarter real GDP growth improved to a 2.9 percent annualized rate. The inventory sell-off that weighed heavily on GDP growth in H1 looks like it is reversing in late 2016 and should contribute to above-potential growth over the next few quarters. Payroll job growth in the third quarter was strong, averaging 206,000 net new jobs per month and the unemployment rate averaged 4.9 percent. The October employment data suggests that job growth is stepping down a little; only 161,000 jobs were added for the month. But that was enough to tighten the unemployment rate back to 4.9 percent. We look for the unemployment rate to bottom out somewhere around 4.6 to 4.7 percent in this cycle. Labor markets across the country are tightening and wages are going up, including some by mandate as minimum wage legislation in several states complements raises already granted by some major employers. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.4 percent in October and were up by 2.8 percent over the previous 12 months. With wages heading up, energy prices moving up, house prices and rents going up and medical costs still increasing, there is a whiff of inflation in the air. The September Consumer Price Index increased by 0.3 percent for the month, and was up 1.5 percent over the previous 12 months. We expect headline inflation indicators to continue to warm up through early next year.

At the recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting of November 1-2, the Fed did exactly as expected by not raising the fed funds rate while hinting that a rate hike at their next meeting, over December 13-14, is a strong possibility. According to the November 2 press release, the FOMC “judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has continued to strengthen but decided, for the time being, to wait for some further evidence of continued progress towards its objectives.” They received more evidence with the October jobs report, and we expect them to get even more evidence of tightening labor market conditions and increasing wage pressure with the release of the November jobs report on December 2. The implied probability of a fed funds rate hike is now about 76 percent according to the fed funds futures market. Expectations are set and the door is open for the Fed. All that is needed is another month of benign economic data. We also see hints that other central banks are expecting more inflation and preparing for eventual monetary policy tightening. The Bank of England modified its forward guidance in its Monetary Policy Summary of November 3, effectively taking another interest rate cut off the table. Likewise, the Bank of Japan refrained from adding more stimulus in their monetary policy statement of November 1.

The U.S. general election, and its aftermath, is still potentially market moving. The slide in major equity indexes, that began in September, accelerated through October. Solid Q3 GDP data and expectations for a repeat in Q4 are supportive of equities, but election uncertainty is high and anxiety about the aftermath of the election, on both sides of the political aisle, also appears to be high. This is obviously not a normal election, and so the expectation of a post-election bounce in equities that spills over into a generalized consumer bliss needs to be discounted. Still, we expect to see a well performing economy after the election and ongoing economic momentum through 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Comerica U.S. Monthly with additional commentary, tables, and charts, click here: USEconomicOutlook1116.

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