The January jobs report was generally strong, thanks to higher earnings, slightly lower unemployment and a longer work week. The top-line job growth was 151,000 – below most expectations. November’s numbers were revised up, but December’s number were revised down by nearly the same amount.
The December jobs report was filled with surprises. The top-line job growth was 292,000 – well above expectations – and both November and October were revised up substantially. Good news. However, combined with slow GDP growth, this means productivity growth is dismal. Bad news. Surprisingly (there’s a theme here), manufacturing employment rose (modestly) despite the poor monthly read-ings. Good news.
The November report contained absolutely no surprises. The economy generated 211,000 jobs and the unemployment rate stayed steady at 5.0 percent.
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.