Housing Market

What another strong jobs report means for the mortgage industry

Interest rate cuts not likely in June, according to economists

The U.S. economy added another 303,000 jobs in March, exceeding economists’ expectations, and well above the average monthly gain of 231,000 jobs over the prior 12 months.

Jobs increased in March, up from a revised rate of 270,000 in February, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. 

The national unemployment rate changed little at 3.8%, down from 3.9% in February, and still below the full employment rate of 4%. Since August 2023, the unemployment rate has hovered between 3.7% and 3.9%. The number of unemployed Americans also didn’t change much at  6.4 million.

“Some had been hoping that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates at its June meeting; however, with today’s strong jobs report, it is all but certain that the first rate cut won’t be before July,” Bright MLS chief economist Lisa Sturtevant said in a statement.  “As a result, mortgage rates are likely going to stay elevated for longer.”

Job gains were most notable in the health care (+72,000), government (+71,000) and construction (+39,000) sectors. Meanwhile, mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities posted fewer jobs in March.

Average hourly earnings for private-sector employees grew by 0.3% month over month to $34.69 and were up 4.1% from a year ago, outpacing the most recent inflation level of 3.2%. In March, employment continued to trend up in construction, adding 39,000 jobs month over month. In February, job openings remained steady at 8.8 million jobs, down from 9.8 million openings one year prior, according to other recent job market data. The job openings rate was steady at 5.3% for the third month in a row while job quits also held steady in February at 3.5 million and a rate of 2.2% for the fourth consecutive month.

“The housing market is eager to see mortgage rates ease as rates have spent nearly a year above 6.5%, and have most recently been hovering above 6.7%,” Realtor.com economic data analyst Hannah Jones said in a statement. “However, mortgage rate relief is dependent on falling inflation and cooling employment growth. The March jobs data and upcoming inflation data will be important inputs for the FOMC ahead of the committee’s May interest rate decision.”

While housing demand remains strong, certain prospective homebuyers will wait for rates to come down later this year.

“Overall, there will be more home sales in 2024 than there were last year but the timing is uncertain,” Sturtevant said. “March home sales look to be tracking below last year’s levels even as inventory is starting to increase. The traditionally busy spring housing market could be pushed into summer—or even into the fall—if buyers hold out for the Fed’s rate cut and subsequent drops in mortgage rates.”

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