The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to –0.44 in March from –0.38 in February. Three of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index decreased from February, and all four categories made nonpositive contributions to the index in March.
The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, decreased to –0.18 in March from –0.11 in February. March’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was somewhat below its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.
The CFNAI Diffusion Index, which is also a three-month moving average, declined to –0.23 in March from –0.12 in February. Twenty-seven of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in March, while 58 made negative contributions. Forty-two indicators improved from February to March, while 42 indicators deteriorated and one was unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, 21 made negative contributions.
The contribution from production-related indicators to the CFNAI ticked down to –0.31 in March from –0.30 in February. Industrial production declined by 0.6 percent in March for the second straight month. The sales, orders, and inventories category made a neutral contribution to the CFNAI in March, up slightly from –0.03 in February.
The contribution from employment-related indicators to the CFNAI moved down to –0.04 in March from +0.02 in February. The civilian unemployment rate edged up to 5.0 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February. Moreover, nonfarm payrolls increased by 215,000 in March after rising by 245,000 in the previous month.
The contribution of the personal consumption and housing category to the CFNAI ticked down to –0.09 in March from –0.07 in February. Housing starts decreased to 1,089,000 annualized units in March from 1,194,000 in February, and housing permits moved down to 1,086,000 annualized units in March from 1,177,000 in the previous month.