Fed Is Staying the Course on Interest Rates, Housing Is Feeling the Impact

 The overheated employment market appears to be cooling off, but probably not fast enough to demonstrate the progress the Federal Reserve wants to see in its efforts to combat inflation, still growing at an uncomfortable 8 percent annual rate.

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“Everyone can relax.”  That conclusion from a Wall Street Journal report, reflected the consensus exhale accompanying the March employment report.  Employers added 196,000 jobs for the month, beating analysts’ expectations and pretty much erasing the fears stirred by February’s stunningly anemic   20,000 gain. That total was revised upward to 33,000,  The statistical adjustments also added another 1,000 jobs to the robust January total, boosting it to 312,000. 

“Patience” was the byword for the Federal Reserve, driving a unanimous decision by the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee to stand pat on interest rates for now, and producing a decidedly less hawkish tone in the statement released after the committee’s January meeting.  

If you believe a ground hog can predict the weather, we should expect an early spring:  Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow when he emerged from his winter home this month.  On the other hand, this famous Philadelphia rodent is almost always wrong, so perhaps it’s best not to put away the parkas and gloves just yet.  We might also hope the housing statistics will be an equally inaccurate predicter of the market outlook, because early indicators have not been positive. 

An increasingly  jittery public, anxious for some good news, got a solid dose of it in the December employment report:  Employers added 312,000 workers to their payrolls for the month, blowing well past the 182,000 jobs analysts were predicting, and extending the steak of consecutive monthly job gains to 98 months - -the longest on record.