US: Employment Situation

Fri Jan 05 07:30:00 CST 2018

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Nonfarm Payrolls - M/M change 191,000 160,000 to 210,000 148,000 228,000 252,000
Unemployment Rate - Level 4.1% 4.0% to 4.2% 4.1% 4.1%
Private Payrolls - M/M change 185,000 163,000 to 205,000 146,000 221,000 239,000
Manufacturing Payrolls - M/M change 15,000 10,000 to 25,000 25,000 31,000
Participation Rate - level 62.7% 62.6% to 62.7% 62.7% 62.7%
Average Hourly Earnings - M/M change 0.3% 0.2% to 0.4% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1%
Average Hourly Earnings - Y/Y change 2.5% 2.5% to 2.6% 2.5% 2.5% 2.4%
Av Workweek - All Employees 34.5hrs 34.4hrs to 34.6hrs 34.5hrs 34.5hrs

Hiring cooled though employment levels are very high and there's also a hint of wage inflation in December's employment report. Nonfarm payrolls rose 148,000 which is lower than expected but still favorable and enough to absorb new entrants into the jobs market. Revisions are slightly negative with November now sharply higher, now at 252,000, but October sharply lower, to 211,000 for a net 9,000 decline.

The number of unemployed actively looking for work rose slightly to 5.308 million with the unemployment rate remaining at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. The pool of available workers, which includes those not actively working but nevertheless wanting a job, held little changed at 11.884 million. The labor participation rate is also unchanged, at 62.7 percent.

Wage data show a little pressure as average hourly earnings rose a noticeable 0.3 percent on the month though November gets a 1 tenth downgrade to only a 0.1 percent gain. Year-on-year, this reading is moving in the right direction though very slowly, up 1 tenth to 2.5 percent.

The payroll breakdown shows two more outstanding months for construction, up 30,000, and manufacturing, up 25,000, in confirmation that housing and the factory sector accelerated into year end. Other industries are more subdued with retail falling 20,000 in results that will raise talk of brick-and-mortar decline while professional and business services rose a subdued 19,000 with the temporary help subcomponent up only 7,000. The average workweek for all private-sector employees came in unchanged at 34.5 hours.

The fundamental strength of this report contrasts a bit with the more moderate level of headline payroll growth and does raise the question, one that the Federal Reserve has been repeatedly asking in its Beige Book, whether scarcity of available labor, particularly skilled labor, is holding back business expansion -- that employers simply can't find the people they need.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Nonfarm payrolls rose a stronger-than-expected 228,000 in November led by an outsized 31,000 increase for manufacturing and also including strong gains for construction and professional services. The average workweek rose 1 tenth to 34.5 hours while the unemployment rate held unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, both of which point to the risk of possible capacity constraints in the labor market. Wage inflation, though subdued, did show slight pressure with a 0.2 percent monthly gain in average hourly earnings and 1 tenth increase in the year-on-year rate to 2.5 percent. Another month of strength is the call for December where the consensus for nonfarm payrolls is 191,000 with the unemployment rate seen unchanged at 4.1 percent. Private payrolls are expected to rise 185,000; manufacturing payrolls are pegged at a 15,000 gain; average hourly earnings are seen rising 0.3 percent for a year-on-year 2.5 percent; the consensus for December's workweek is 34.5 hours and 62.7 percent for the labor participation rate, both of which would be unchanged.

The employment situation is a set of labor market indicators based on two separate surveys in this one report. The unemployment rate equals the number of unemployed persons divided by the total number of persons in the labor force, which comes from a survey of 60,000 households (this is called the household survey). Workers are only counted once, no matter how many jobs they have, or whether they are only working part-time. In order to be counted as unemployed, one must be actively looking for work. Other commonly known figures from the Household Survey include the labor supply and discouraged workers.

The Establishment Survey-a survey of over 557,000 worksites- provides additional indicators. Nonfarm payroll employment is the most popular and well-known indicator from this survey. Business establishments in the nonfarm sector report the number of workers currently on their payrolls. Double counting occurs when individuals hold more than one job. Workers on strike during the relevant week are not included in the figures.

Due to sizeable swings in payroll employment during 2010 for hiring and then layoffs of temporary workers for the decentennial Census, analysts started giving essentially equal attention to private nonfarm payrolls as to overall payrolls. This added focus continued even after temporary Census worker issues were no longer a problem as the long-duration recession caused state & local governments to cut their workforce even as the private sector began to rehire during recovery.

The average workweek is a leading indicator of employment. Businesses tend to adjust total hours worked by increasing or decreasing the workweek before hiring someone new or laying someone off. These figures come from the Establishment Survey.

Average hourly earnings are monthly payroll figures reported before deductions for taxes, social insurance and fringe benefits. They include pay for overtime, holidays, vacation and sick leave. These figures come from the Establishment Survey.

If ever there was an economic report that can move the markets, this is it! The anticipation on Wall Street each month is palpable, the reactions can be dramatic, and the information for investors is invaluable. By digging just a little deeper than the headline unemployment rate, investors can take more strategic control of their portfolio and even take advantage of unique investment opportunities that often arise in the days surrounding this report.

The employment data give the most comprehensive report on how many people are looking for jobs, how many have them, what they're getting paid and how many hours they are working. These numbers are the best way to gauge the current state as well as the future direction of the economy. Nonfarm payrolls are categorized by sectors. This sector data can go a long way in helping investors determine in which economic sectors they intend to invest.

The employment statistics also provide insight on wage trends, and wage inflation is high on the list of opponents of easy monetary policy. Fed officials constantly monitor this data watching for even the smallest signs of potential inflationary pressures, even when economic conditions are soggy. If inflation is under control, it is easier for the Fed to maintain a more accommodative monetary policy. If inflation is a problem, the Fed is limited in providing economic stimulus.

By tracking the jobs data, investors can sense the degree of tightness in the job market. If wage inflation threatens, it's a good bet that interest rates will rise; bond and stock prices will fall. No doubt that the only investors in a good mood will be the ones who watched the employment report and adjusted their portfolios to anticipate these events. 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.

The employment situation is the primary monthly indicator of aggregate economic activity because it encompasses all major sectors of the economy. It is comprehensive and available early in the month. Many other economic indicators are dependent upon its information. It not only reveals information about the labor market, but about income and production as well. In short, it provides clues about other economic indicators reported for the month and plays a big role in influencing financial market psychology during the month. Additionally, the Fed has made 6.5 percent unemployment a threshold for considering changes in policy - both for quantitative easing and the fed funds rate. And the Fed has emphasized that it is overall labor market conditions that matter - not just a specific number.

The bond market will rally (fall) when the employment situation shows weakness (strength). The equity market often rallies with the bond market on weak data because low interest rates are good for stocks. But sometimes the two markets move in opposite directions. After all, a healthy labor market should be favorable for the stock market because it supports economic growth and corporate profits. At the same time, bond traders are more concerned about the potential for inflationary pressures.

The unemployment rate rises during cyclical downturns and falls during periods of rapid economic growth. A rising unemployment rate is associated with a weak or contracting economy and declining interest rates. Conversely, a decreasing unemployment rate is associated with an expanding economy and potentially rising interest rates. The fear is that wages will accelerate if the unemployment rate becomes too low and workers are hard to find.

Nonfarm payroll employment indicates the current level of economic activity. Increases in nonfarm payrolls translate into earnings that workers will spend on goods and services in the economy. The greater the increase in employment, the faster is the total economic growth. When the economy is in the mature phase of an expansion, rapid increases in employment cause fears of inflationary pressures if rapid demand for goods and services cannot be met by current production.

When the average workweek trends up, it supports production gains in the current period and portends additional employment increases. When the average workweek is in a declining mode, it probably is signaling a potential slowdown in employment growth-or even outright declines in employment in case of recession.

Gains in average hourly earnings represent wage pressures. It is worth noting that these figures aren't adjusted for overtime pay or shifts in the composition of the workforce, which affects wages on its own. Market participants believe that a rising trend in hourly earnings will lead to higher inflation. But if increased wages are matched by productivity gains, producers likely will not increase product prices with wages because their unit labor costs are stable.