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Labor market, retail sales and industrial production —gaining momentum

Labor market, retail sales and industrial production —gaining momentum

A light week of economic news will highlight whether some key economic engines — the labor market, retail sales and industrial production — are gaining momentum into the second half of the year, as many economists expect.1411777281000-AP-Ohios-Economy-Manufacturing

The employment market has been healthy, with the Labor Department last week reporting 215,000 net job gains in July and a monthly average of 235,000 the past three months. On Wednesday, Labor’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey for June will burrow beneath those totals to reveal the strength of employer demand and hiring, and the nature of employee movements.

While job openings have surged to the highest on records dating back to 2000, hires and quits have approached but failed to reach prerecession levels. The number of workers quitting jobs will be scrutinized by the Federal Reserve as it weighs an interest rate hike in September for the first time in nine years. The measure typically signifies whether employees are confident enough to leave one position for another — the hallmark of a dynamic labor market. Quits hit a postrecession peak in January but have edged down in recent months. Lewis Alexander, chief U.S. economist of Nomura, expects quits to gradually rise as the 5.3% unemployment rate continues to fall, shifting leverage to job candidates.

Retail sales have also been choppy despite low gasoline prices, reduced consumer debt, healthy job growth and higher household wealth from rising stock and home prices. Consumer purchases rose sharply in May but fell in June. Economists estimate the Commerce Department will report Thursday that a “core” measure of sales — that excludes autos, gasoline, food services and building materials — increased a solid 0.5% in July.