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Weekly Economic Update: April 10, 2023

Presented by Nicholas Wealth Management

Slowest Monthly Jobs Increase in Two Years: The Labor Department reported last week that employers added 236,000 jobs in March. While this was consistent with the median monthly gain over the last ten years, it was the smallest number of additions in the past two years. As in February, notable gains in March were seen in the leisure & hospitality sector, along with healthcare. With the solid job growth in March, the unemployment rate decreased to 3.5% from 3.6% in the prior month. Meanwhile, the pace of hourly wage gains eased, increasing 4.2% over the prior year in March, versus 4.6% in February. Manufacturing Activity Contracts Again in March: March marked the fifth month in a row that business activity in the manufacturing sector declined, according to surveys of executives taken by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). The ISM Manufacturing index registered 46.3% for March, down from 47.7% in February and the lowest reading since May 2020. (A reading above 50% indicates expansion of activity, while sub-50% reflects contraction.) This five-month stretch of contraction comes after a 30-month period of increasing activity. ISM's Services Index, on the other hand, remained in expansion territory for the third straight month, at 51.2%, though this was down from 55.1% in February. OPEC+ to Cut Oil Production: OPEC and Russia (aka "OPEC+") last week announced a decision to reduce oil production by more than 1.6 million barrels per day, starting in May. The group cited weakened forecasts for oil demand as the motive, and labeled the move as a precautionary measure aimed at stabilizing the oil market. The decision comes amid a downturn in oil prices, with West Texas Intermediate crude recently falling below $70 per barrel to its lowest level in 15 months. The announcement caused prices to jump above $80, and could hinder the fight against inflation going forward. Source: Gallagher Insurance, Risk Management and Consulting