The latest Bureau of Labour Statistics Employment Situation report is out, and the numbers are neither alarming nor fantastic. 227,000 non-farm payroll jobs were added in January and the employment held steady at 4.8%. That’s higher than the expected 175,000, but the lack of movement in unemployment and other major benchmarks that we look for in the monthly BLS report, makes some economists nervous. Full employment vs slowth vs stagnation has been the debate amongst economists for months now. But perhaps one positive sign is that the number of marginally attacked workers, when compared to January of 2016, was down by 337,000.
Key gains were made in:
- Retail trade +46,000 (particularly clothing, electronics and furniture)
- Construction +36,000 (particularly residential)
- Financial activities + 32,000
- Professional and technical services + 23,000
- Food services and drinking + +30,000
- Healthcare + 18,000
So what do the pundits make of this? Let’s find out! Here is your Friday Five:
Wall Street Journal’s jobs report live blog is always worth reading. It’s updated throughout the day with charts and analysis. They also link to all their full articles on the topic, as they’re published. This is your one-stop resource for all things jobs report — according to WSJ.
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Guess who else has a live blog? The Guardian provides another perspective on the BLS report and the economic debates that will unfold over the course of the day. Their analysis is holistic, incorporating market and political activity, and often adds a valuable European perspective.
What are the three questions every news segment poses, after dispensing with the basic facts of the monthly BLS report? 1) How will the market react? 2) What does it mean for the President? 3) How will the Fed react? Well, here’s one opinion on how the Fed react — they’ll stay the course. Another rate hike is probably coming, at some point soon, but don’t expect anything dramatic.
Peter Boockvar says that although the “headline” jobs number, the overall figure that the US economy gaining in January, looks good, it conceals some troubling movement. Namely that wage growth continues to be slow and employment declined amongst prime age workers, those 25-54. He also cautions us to ascribe gains to businesses reacting favourably to the election of President Donald Trump, saying that it’s unlikely for business to leap without looking. “It’s easy to attribute the solid job growth seen in January to optimism with the new president and hopes for a more business friendly policy. While I’m hopeful for lower taxes and a reduced regulatory burden, is it fair to believe that businesses acted so fast before even seeing what any of the fiscal details really are?”
Ana Swanson of WaPo’s Wonkblog crunches the numbers and then reaches out to key stakeholders for comment. She contextualizes the report within the political climate of the new administration, with its deluge of executive orders and rapid change, saying that while some business leaders are looking forward to tax breaks and eased regulatory burdens, others are worried they’ll be “targeted” with unfavourable EOs or some too-personal Twitter attention from the President. But she adds that “given the pact of government policy-making, economists say new measures introduced by the Trump administration seem unlikely to begin affecting the economy until late 2017, at the earliest.”