Strong jobs report clears way for rate hikes
The Labor Department’s February employment report, released Friday, indicated an increase of 313,000 jobs, the most since July 2016 and surpassing expectations of around 200,000. Average hourly wages grew by 0.1%, which signaled a potential quell to inflation fears following last month’s 0.3% surge. And since interest rates moved higher on inflation fears after last month's report, a prudent expectation is for strong buyer response in the bond market. Finally, while still at 17-year lows, the unemployment rate disappointed slightly, coming in a 4.1%, just a tick higher than its expected 4.0% increase.
For consumers looking to purchase homes in the near future, the most important takeaway from this month’s report will be its impact on next month’s Fed meeting. Last month’s wage growth sparked inflation concerns on Wall Street, and increased speculation that the Fed might raise rates four times this year, rather than the expected three increases. But Friday’s reduced rate of wage growth may signal that previous inflation fears were overblown. Still, today’s news does nothing to change the fact that the low-rate environment of the past several years is on the way out. For consumers looking to buy, it’s no longer a question of if rates will rise, but rather how long they’ll be able to take advantage of the low lending costs they’ve come to expect.