Strong employment results
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the U.S.
economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May, the first time it
has added jobs since February, as hundreds of thousands
of workers flooded back to work in restaurants, health care
and construction with the reopening of several states in
The May unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% from
14.7%. The positive news was complicated by the fact that
the Bureau of Labor Statistics said it had misclassified
data in May, as it had in April and March. Without the
error, the unemployment rate would be higher: 16.3% for
May, down from 19.7% for April, the agency said.
Both the news and extent of this misclassification has
further split policymakers over what the federal
government should do next. Some conservatives are
arguing the report shows the recovery now has the
momentum to sustain itself, while other Republicans,
including President Trump, insist the economy will need
additional government support.
Steep April declines in trade
The U.S. trade deficit hit the highest level in eight months
in April. Exports and imports both posted record monthly
drops as the coronavirus pandemic smothered trade
The gap between what the U.S. sells and what it buys
abroad jumped to US$49.4 billion in April, up 16,7% from
US$42.3 billion in March and the highest level since last
August, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
April exports fell 20.5% to US$151.3 billion, and imports
dropped 13.7% to US$200.7 billion. April's import and
export levels were the lowest in 10 years.
Total trade, exports plus imports , dropped 16.7% in April
from March and 24.8% from April 2019. Exports are
down 9.5% so far this year, and imports have fallen
Tropical hardwood imports rose in April
U.S. imports of sawn tropical hardwood continued to
recover in April, rising a robust 39%. However, the 18,034
cubic metres imported is still over 20% less than that
imported in April 2019. Year-to-date imports are down
Imports from Ecuador fell below 1,000 cubic metres for
the first time in more than a decade and trail 2019 by 75%
Imports from Brazil grew sharply for the second straight
month, but still trail 2019 year-to-date totals by nearly
30%. Imports from Indonesia more than quadrupled in
April and are ahead by 31% year-to-date.
Imports of Jatoba continued to bounce back sharply in
April, more than doubling in volume from March to a
level nearly 20% higher than that of the previous April.
However, Jatoba imports still trail last year¡¯s volume,
down 12% year to date. Sapelli imports also more than
doubled in April, rebounding to a level slightly better than
April 2019. Balsa, Keruing and Acajou d¡¯Afrique imports
all continued to fall in April, with Balsa now down 75% in
Canadian Imports of tropical hardwood, which had been
up for the year through March, fell by 35% in April and
are now down 4% year to date. Imports from the United
States more than tripled in April, bouncing back from the
worst month in nearly four years.
Hardwood plywood and veneer imports steady
U.S. imports of hardwood plywood grew by less than 1%
in April, holding at a level 14% higher than the volume of
a year ago. Imports from China more than doubled in
April after a very weak March, but remain down by more
than 50% year-to-date. Imports from Vietnam rose by
one-third in April and are now up 43% year-to-date.
Imports of tropical hardwood veneer also held steady in
April, rising by 2% after bouncing back strongly in March.
While imports from Italy were down sharply in April, the
loss was made up by large increases from India, China,
Ghana, and Cote d¡¯Ivoire. Total imports remain behind
2019 by 29% year-to-date.
Hardwood flooring imports dip
U.S. imports of hardwood flooring fell by 14% in April to
its lowest level in three years. While imports in this area
did not see any distinct monthly plunge due to the global
pandemic, hardwood flooring imports have eroded and are
now down 28% year-to-date from last year.
Imports from China and Brazil bounced back after
extraordinarily poor numbers in March. Imports from
Malaysia fell 64% in April and are down by 65% year-todate.
Imports of assembled flooring panels also were down by
14% in April. Imports from Canada were down by 50%
and are now just 3% up from 2019 totals year to date.
Imports from China also rebounded in this sector. But
while April imports from China were up by 167% in April,
they remain down by 35% year-to-date. Imports from
Indonesia are likewise down by about one-third for the
year despite a 24% rise in April. Total U.S. imports of
assembled floor panels are down 5% year-to-date through
U.S. moulding imports - another slight gain
U.S. imports of hardwood moulding showed a small gain
for the second straight month, rising 6% in April. Imports
from Canada fell by 39%, while imports from other
trading countries all rose, especially China, where we saw
a 69% gain. Year-to-date imports are down 12% overall
with imports from Brazil down 55% year-to-date.
Residential furniture orders dive
As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted new
residential furniture orders, which dropped 29% in March
compared to the same period a year ago, and 23% from
"As we suspected last month, the results for March would
not be very pretty and the actual results were not," said
Ken Smith, managing partner at Smith Leonard in the
latest Furniture Insights survey of manufacturers and
Year-to-date new orders declined 8% over 2019, the
analyst and consulting firm noted. About 87% of the
respondents reported decreased orders in March.
The May 2020 report shows March shipments fell 11%
compared to 2019 figures. The March decline caused yearto-
date shipments to drop 4% for the year with 59%
reporting declining shipments, Smith Leonard reported.
"The decline in shipments was not as severe as the decline
in orders as participants were working off backlogs so
shipments were sustained in some cases, though backlogs
also were down due to cancellations as well," Smith said.
Backlogs fell 16% from February and were down 8%
compared to March 2019. Receivable levels in March
were down 5% compared to 2019 figures. Inventory levels
were almost even with February 2020 and up 1% over
Advance reports for retail sales in April noted a 16.4%
drop from March and a decline of 21.6% from 2019
figures, with sales at furniture and home furnishings stores
down 66.5% compared to April 2019.