U.S. Economy Slowed In Recent Weeks With Inflation, Labor Cooling

US consumer spending, inflation and the labor market all cooled in recent weeks, adding to evidence that the economy is slowing.

Inflation-adjusted personal spending rose 0.2% last month after a downwardly revised 0.3% advance in September, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Separate figures Thursday showed recurring applications for unemployment benefits rose to the highest in about two years.

The figures are consistent with expectations that the economy will moderate in the fourth quarter following the strongest growth pace in nearly two years.

Cooler demand may also help reassure the Federal Reserve that inflationary pressures will continue to abate, reinforcing forecasts central bankers are done raising interest rates. Stock-index futures rose after the figures.

“The Fed is on hold for now but their pivot to rate cuts is getting closer: Inflation is clearly slowing, and the job market is softening faster than expected,” Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank, said in a note.

The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which strips out the volatile food and energy components, rose 0.2% last month, according to the BEA. From a year ago, the Fed’s preferred gauge of underlying inflation advanced 3.5%.

The Fed’s latest Beige Book survey, released Wednesday, showed economic activity slowed in recent weeks as households pulled back on discretionary spending. Labor demand also eased. Central bank officials are increasingly relying on this type of information to assess the path of the economy and inflation.

Labor Department data showed continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose to 1.93 million in the week ended Nov. 18. The figure has been climbing since September, suggesting out-of-work Americans are finding it more difficult to secure new employment.

Continuing Applications for Jobless Benefits Surge | A proxy for those receiving unemployment now highest since November 2021

Meanwhile, the overall PCE price index was unchanged from the prior month, on lower energy prices. On an annual basis, it’s running at 3% — the smallest gain since March 2021 yet still above the Fed’s 2% target.