The October jobs report was a huge surprise: 271,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent. Job growth was widespread (outside of manufacturing). The now-closely-watched hourly earnings data showed the largest year-over-year in-crease since July 2009 – up 2.5 percent. (It was up 0.4 percent in October.) This represents real wage growth, which has been a missing ingredient. The only nit to pick was flat average weekly hours.
The September jobs report was a huge miss: only 142,000 jobs, downward revisions to July and August jobs, and an unchanged unemployment rate. The only real job growth was concentrated in health care (not necessarily good news), information services, and business services. Employment in goods producing industries declined.
The August jobs report was not expected to reveal a real change in the path of the “meh” recovery – but it was expected to be crucial to the path of Fed policy.
The “meh” economy lumbers on. Leading into the report, the high-frequency data (ADP Employment Report, ISM manufacturing, ISM non-manufacturing) were mixed – an accurate forecast for the report itself. Top-line growth showed an unspectacular 215,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady.
I wrote (unflatteringly) about the February jobs report: “Doughnuts look good. Doughnuts even taste good. But doughnuts have a hole in the middle and really can’t nourish you.” June looks like another doughnut, with no wage growth and limited jobs growth.
The May jobs report was filled with good news. The top-line jobs growth was 280,000 and past jobs growth – particularly the awful March report – was revised up. Job growth was more widespread than in April.
The April jobs report was a return to a familiar pattern. Job growth was solid – up 223,000 – but not dramatic. Meanwhile jobs in March were revised down from the already-weak 126,000. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percent to 5.4 percent even as labor force participation climbed by 0.1 to 62.8 percent. Good moves in the right direction.
The March jobs report was quite weak. There were 126,000 jobs created and downward revisions of 69,000 in January and February. The unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 5.5 percent because the labor force fell by 96,000 as the labor force participation rate declined by 0.1 percentage points to 62.7 percent.
Doughnuts look good. Doughnuts even taste good. But doughnuts have a hole in the middle and really can’t nourish you.
The January employment report showed real strength across the board. Payroll jobs were up 257,000, while November and December were revised upward by 147,000. Usually the good news ends there. In January average hourly earnings were up by 0.5 percent – and up 2.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. Average hours were flat, however, but overall the combination of jobs and earnings was a positive sign for the labor market.