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Daily Roundup of Key US Economic Data for May 11

05/11/2021 09:32

01:27 PM EDT, 05/11/2021 (MT Newswires) -- The light data slate on Tuesday was highlighted by the NFIB's monthly small business optimism survey, which showed a third straight increase in the headline index, but continued concerns about labor shortages.

The NFIB's index rose to 99.8 in April from 98.2 in March, reflecting improvements in seven of the 10 reading. Many of them, however, remained in the negative, including the earnings outlook and expectations of economic improvement, illustrating the contrast between large businesses, which have mostly recovered from the pandemic, and small businesses that continue to navigate their way back.

The biggest concern for small businesses now, as it is for large businesses, is an inability to find skilled workers, a major topic of the moment after Friday's smaller-than-expected payrolls gain.

"Small business owners are seeing a growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Finding qualified employees remains the biggest challenge for small businesses and is slowing economic growth. Owners are raising compensation, offering bonuses and benefits to attract the right employees."

Later in the morning, Redbook reported US same-store retail sales were up 13.3% year over year in the week ended May 8, a deceleration from the 14.2% year-over-year gain in the previous week. This was the first week of the May sales month.

Redbook noted that Mother's Day drove most of the sales, with purchases of jewelry, cosmetics, flowers, cards, and small appliances particularly strong. There was also seasonal spending due to warmer temperatures and ahead of graduations.

The BLS's monthly JOLTS report showed that job openings and hiring both increased in March, in line with the sharp nonfarm payrolls rise that month. At the same time, layoffs declined sharply.

The March JOLTS data are somewhat dated, coming after the softer-than-expected April payrolls reading on May 7 that suggested the supply of available workers is lagging demand. The JOLTS data next month are likely to reflect that spread, with openings rising even faster than hiring.