The headline numbers for September look great. The economy created 248,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent. Fabulous. On top of that, the weak August number of 148,000 jobs was revised up to 180,000 jobs. Even better.
Taken at face value, the August jobs report was a disaster. The economy created only 142,000 jobs, and job growth was less widely dispersed than in the previous months. The alternative measure of jobs – from the household survey – showed a complete stall of 16,000 jobs.
The July jobs report was like flat soda. Yes, there were over 200,000 jobs – 209,000 new jobs. But the unemployment rate edged up to 6.2 percent because labor force participation also blipped up by 0.1 percent to 62.9. The household survey showed growth in the labor force (329,000), but weak employment (131,000).
The June jobs report was a 2nd straight solid report. Once again, the key was either no news or good news. Top-line employment growth was 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent – both well above my expectations (and a minor victory for ADP in predicting a strong number). The household survey showed growth in the labor force (81,000) and employment (407,000), allowing the fraction of the population that was employed to rise by 0.1 to 59.0. On the no news front, the labor force participation rate was unchanged.
The May jobs report was dull – and that is a good thing. Unlike past reports, May consisted of either no news or good news. In the no news category, unemployment was unchanged at 6.3 percent, the labor force rose modestly and labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.8 percent. Average weekly hours were flat.
April jobs surprised on the upside – 288,000 jobs – widely distributed across industries and comprised of under 10 percent temporary help jobs. But labor force participation collapsed, with the labor force down 806,000 and the participation rate down by 0.4 percent to 62.8 percent. The result: the unemployment rate fell sharply from 6.7 to 6.3 percent.
Hopes that the March report would deliver blockbuster job creation were disap-pointed. But the news was not all bad. The top-line job growth — 192,000 — fell a bit below the consensus of 200,000 and well below some optimists hopes for 300,000. However, the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent despite the fact that the labor force grew by 503,000 and labor force participation rose by 0.2 percent. That is good news.
Whatever you believed last month, continue to believe it. The February jobs report did not have much news. The core story in the February report is likely the impact of bad weather on hours worked, no surprise to all of us with mental scars from days inside and snow drifts outside. Jobs were up surprisingly strongly — 175,000 — and average hourly earnings rose a sharp 4.5 percent (annual rate). Weekly earnings were flat because hours were down by 0.2 percent. Workers are making more per hour, but working less.
The January report did little to shed light on the near-term outlook. Yes the data were weak — 113,000 jobs but the unemployment rate fell to 6.6 percent despite a rise in the labor force participation rate.
The December jobs report was terrible. After a November report that was strong from stem to stern, December disappointed in every dimension: jobs grew by only 74,000, there were modest upward revisions to past jobs growth, hours worked fell, and earnings were flat to declining.