It’s now been a little over a year since the Federal Reserve began to increase interest rates to slow the pace of inflation and the rate of economic growth. The increase in rates has been large, and it has been fast. Short-term interest rates have gone from virtually 0% in March 2022 to 4.75% today, the most significant tightening in monetary policy since the 1980s, when then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker also increased rates to combat inflation and slow economic growth.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate slipped back to 3.5% in March from 3.6% in February, but up from 3.4% in January, which was its lowest level since 1969. It has been hovering in a narrow range for many months now. Separately, the BLS also reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 236,000 in March 2023, below the monthly pace of 334,000 over the prior six months, but still strong. Market expectations had called for a gain of 230,000 jobs. Revisions subtracted 17,000 positions to total payrolls in the previous two months.
The unemployment rate reversed course and rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% in January, which was its lowest level since 1969. Separately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 311,000 in February 2023, below the monthly pace of 343,000 over the prior six months, but still strong. Market expectations had called for a gain of less than 225,000 jobs. Revisions subtracted 34,000 positions to total payrolls in the previous two months.
It’s a tale of two markets and many influencing factors as we move further into 2023. The capital markets remain hostage to the Federal Reserve which continues its course of tighter monetary policy and higher interest rates. Most pundits believe this will continue through mid-year 2023 until tangible evidence emerges of decelerating inflation, and in particular service inflation. Meanwhile, market fundamentals continue to improve for senior housing, with rising occupancy rates, strong demand patterns, and limited, albeit on-going, inventory growth.