Something Unusual Is Going On With The Monthly Jobs Data

Monthly jobs data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics are following an unusual pattern: volatility in the numbers is at its lowest level since 1997.

“If there’s a theme to close the year with, it’s the lack of volatility in the monthly U.S. nonfarm payroll data,” says Kit Juckes, a global strategist at Société Générale. “The first Friday of the month has seldom been so dull.”

The blue line in the chart below shows the rolling 12-month standard deviation of the monthly change in nonfarm payrolls.

In November, the measure stood at 59,000, the lowest since August 1997’s 45,000 reading — and as the chart shows, it has been lower only a handful of times in the post-war period.

The red line shows the average rolling 12-month standard deviation over the last 30 years (115,000).

For now, slow and steady is the name of the game when it comes to payroll growth in the United States.

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