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Continuing a year long trend, the number of job openings  in February exceeded the number of available workers, but fell to 7.1 million (-538,000), the largest drop since August 2015, after an all time high of 7.625 million openings in January. The largest decreases in openings were for accommodation and food services (-103,000), real estate (-72,000), and transportation/warehousing (-66,000). Hires were relatively unchanged at 5.7 million, with fewer hires in construction (-73,000), nondurable goods manufacturing (-33,000), and education (-22,000). The number of separations was similarly stable at 5.6 million, as a rise in separations for educational services (+30,000) was offset by decreases for nondurable goods (-32,000) and real estate (-26,000). Over the 12 months ending in February, there were 69.3 million hires and 66.6 million separations, resulting in a net gain of +2.7 million jobs.
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index  rose +0.1 points in March to 101.8 as growth in employment and earnings trends balanced out drops in inventories and expected credit conditions. Excessive inventory was more commonly reported to be a problem for wholesale trades and retail, while agriculture showed a slight tendency toward seeing stocks as too low. Finding qualified workers was identified as the “Single Most Important Business Problem” by 21% of respondents, and 39% reported being unable to fill job openings, with a net 33% reporting that they were providing higher compensation.
A 16% jump in gasoline prices and a +1.0% gain in final demand prices were largely responsible for a +0.6% increase in the overall producer price index  in March. Service prices increased +0.3% as a -0.8% drop in transportation services balanced out a +1.1% increase in trade services. Nearly a third of the trade services increase was due to a 4.3% increase in the margins for apparel, jewelry, footwear and accessories. The core producer price index, which excludes food, energy and trade services, was flat after edging up +0.1% in February, and the yearly core price index dropped from +2.3% to +2.0%.
Upcoming Economic Reports:
Tuesday April 16 – Industrial Production
Thursday April 18 – Retail Sales