The labour market deteriorated, but only slightly, in January. Unadjusted the number of people out of work rose a hefty 5,094 or 3.2 percent on the month to 164,466. This lifted the jobless rate from 3.5 percent to a higher than expected 3.7 percent. However, the jump here was broadly in line with the usual seasonal pattern seen at the start of the year and adjusted for such factors unemployment was up just 105 or 0.1 percent at 149,217. This left the seasonally adjusted rate flat at 3.3 percent, in line with the market consensus.
There was good news on vacancies which climbed 1.7 percent on the month to stand 18.1 percent higher than in January 2016.
The jobs market has been moving mainly sideways for some time now. Nonetheless, the ongoing rise in vacancies suggests that businesses are becoming cautiously more optimistic about the economic outlook and this should bode well for employment in the future.
The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labour force. Both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted monthly data are provided.
Like the employment data, unemployment data help to gauge the current state as well as the future direction of the economy. Employment data are categorized by sectors. This sector data can go a long way in helping investors determine in which economic sectors they intend to invest.
By tracking the jobs data, investors can sense the degree of tightness in the job market. If employment is tight it is a good bet that interest rates will rise and bond and stock prices will fall. In contrast, when job growth is slow or negative, then interest rates are likely to decline - boosting up bond and stock prices in the process.