A strong labor market and resilient consumer trends supported a slight improvement in economic conditions in the U.S. during the third quarter as inflation showed some signs of abating, according to the Citizens Business Conditions Index. After falling below 50 in the second quarter, the index rose to 50.7 in the third quarter, signaling a return to modest growth.
New business applications leveled off during the quarter, but operating conditions for small businesses generally improved as interest rates stabilized following the Federal Reserve’s latest rate hike in July. Citizens’ proprietary data on client revenue was stronger across most industries during the third quarter. According to the index, consumer services and healthcare remained among the top sectors, while the manufacturing industry continued to contract, though at a slower rate.
“The U.S. economy was resilient in the third quarter as inflation showed signs of easing despite continued strength in the labor market,” Eric Merlis, managing director and co-head of global markets at Citizens, said. “While the operating environment remains fragile, Citizens’ middle-market and mid-corporate clients continue to perform reasonably well.”
The underlying components of the index showed a slight rebound in the business environment during the third quarter. Three of the five components provided a boost to the Index level, while one was neutral and one weighed on the reading.
The third-quarter index from Citizens revealed a business environment that continues to grapple with the impact of higher rates but one that has benefited more recently from signs that inflation may be moderating. While operating conditions remain mixed, the economy exited the quarter with momentum.
“The third quarter CBCI shows a business environment that improved over the last quarter, as initial jobless claims declined, consumer trends remained resilient and inflation eased,” Merlis said. “From here, the focus will continue to be on policy makers as they navigate a complex economic and geopolitical environment and attempt to walk the fine line toward a soft landing.”
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