The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 156,000 additional nonfarm payroll jobs were created in August, which was less than expected, but will be enough to keep markets happy. And the unemployment rate edged up to 4.4 percent from July’s 4.3 percent as more workers began looking for work (77,000), but weren’t yet absorbed into the workforce. Almost all the job gains occurred in manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, health care, and mining.
A major positive in the report is a 36,000 surge in manufacturing payrolls that includes a 10,000 upward revision to July to a 26,000 increase and a 9,000 upgrade to June to a gain of 21,000. It’s a positive sign because manufacturing jobs pay higher wages.
Construction payrolls are also solid, up 28,000 in August following a 3,000 decline in July, which mirrors the surging housing market. The new-home construction rate is now above 1 million annual units.
But retail hiring has declined for six straight months as retail stores continue to close. This is while Amazon has announced plans to hire an additional 50,000 employees to work in its distribution centers.
This was a good jobs report, in other words, and suggests the ongoing recovery, now in its eighth year, shows no signs of weakening. Wages aren’t rising any faster than 2.5 percent; which is a mystery because manufacturing and construction jobs pay higher wages. Is that because there are still 5.6 million part time workers that would rather work fulltime? They earn less, so that may be what is holding down wage growth.
But real (inflation adjusted) Disposable Income is rising again after going negative in 2016. Disposable income measures income from rents and the self-employed, as well as wages, which may give a boost to employees’ wages. It is the major reason consumer spending rose 3.3 percent in second quarter’s GDP report, and probably will boost third quarter growth as well. Wages and salaries have now risen 0.5 percent for two consecutive months.
The combination of good unemployment and rising incomes are boosting consumer confidence. The Conference Board reported on Tuesday that its consumer confidence index is now at 122.9, which is its highest value since December 2000.
“Consumer confidence increased in August following a moderate improvement in July,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ more buoyant assessment of present-day conditions was the primary driver of the boost in confidence, with the Present Situation Index continuing to hover at a 16-year high (July 2001, 151.3). Consumers’ short-term expectations were relatively flat, though still optimistic, suggesting that they do not anticipate an acceleration in the pace of economic activity in the months ahead.”
Manufacturing payrolls are surging in part because factory orders are rising again. Factory orders fell in July 3.3 percent because of a drop in aircraft orders, but there was a 6 tenths upward revision to core capital goods orders (nondefense ex-air) to a 1.0 percent gain and a 2 tenths upward revision to core shipments, now at 1.2 percent. These numbers point to accelerating strength for third-quarter business investment, which along with consumer spending are the main drivers of GDP growth.
Another boost to Q3 growth will be the recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Damage estimates range up to $100 billion, and governments (as well as insurance) companies will be spending most of that money. This is what governments need to do, even if the U.S. congress can’t pass a substantial infrastructure bill this year.
And what about the estimated 6 million damaged autos that will be replaced? That give’s another boost to the manufacturing sector, and Q3 economic growth!
Harlan Green © 2017
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