You won’t be surprised to hear that David Rosenberg sees holes in this morning’s “strong” jobs report.
Well, that was quite the shocker. Nonfarm payrolls managed to dramatically exceed expectations and rung up a total of 151,000 jobs in October — more than double consensus estimates. And, the prior two months were revised higher by a total of 110,000. The workweek edged back up to 34.3 hours from 34.2 hours in September and along with the moderate increase in wages, average weekly earnings, a proxy for work-based personal income, jumped 0.5% mum. This more than recouped the 0.2% decline the month before and was a welcome relief for a household sector that will be confronting sharply rising gas prices and grocery bills ahead.
The headline was undoubtedly strong, as were some of the details, but we want to warn readers that this was not a universally solid report. First, within the nonfarm report itself, virtually all the gains were in three sectors — health/education, retail trade and waste/administrative services. Goods-producing employment barely rose. The diffusion index for private payrolls dipped in October, to 55.0 from 55.6, which is a four-month low, and for manufacturing, the diffusion index fell to 42.1 from 54.3, which is the lowest since December 2009. So while there was depth to the report, in terms of magnitude, there was not a whole lot of breadth to it. Many sectors still reported job declines last month, including manufacturing, commercial and residential construction, transportation, information, financial and government. As I said, not a universally strong report, notwithstanding the solid headline results.
Moreover, the Household Survey showed a 330,000 decline in October, and again, full-time jobs declined, as they have for each of the past five months for a cumulative plunge of 1.1 million. The employment-to-population rate — the share of the population that is working — fell to 58.3% from 58.5%, a 10-month low. Many labour market experts actually consider this to be the most accurate barometer of the health in the labour market (though they are clearly not day traders, judging from the immediate reaction in the bond and stock pits). And many of the other measures of the unemployment rate edged up, with the broad U6 index staying stubbornly high at 17%. It will be very difficult to build any sustained wage pressure with this degree of slack overhanging the labour market. While the number of people working part-time for economic reasons slid 318,000, this has to be viewed in the context of the near-one million bulge in the prior two months. Meanwhile, those folks who have been unemployed and looking for work fruitlessly for at least six months jumped 1.54%, or 83k, last month — the first increase since last May — and the median and mean duration of unemployment both rose as well (to 21.2 weeks from 20.4; and to 33.9 weeks from 33.3, respectively).
Bottom line: Nice headline on U.S. employment, and the income figure too. But the Household survey did not offer ratification and the problem of excess labour supply has clearly not gone away. We finished off October with a level of jobless claims (455k) that is consistent with stagnant job growth, so do not be surprised to see some giveback in payrolls when the November data roll around next month.
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