A Poor Employment Report?

Popular Economics Weekly

What does it mean when 33,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were lost in September? Not much, when many of the losses came from the hurricanes that threw 1.5 million out of work, according to Marketwatch’s Jeff Bartash, and the rest of our economy is doing very well.

Wages jumped, also good news, but it was mainly because many of those lost jobs were in retail and restaurants which tend to pay the lowest incomes, hence the upward trend may be temporary.


Graph: Marketwatch.com

The number of employed jumped by a huge 906,000 in the smaller household survey that determines the unemployment rate—in spite of the storms—while the number of job losses was smaller; at 331,000, hence the lower unemployment rate. So the rest of the U.S. is doing well.

And we now have a fast growing manufacturing sector that will grow even faster with the cleanup and rebuild from those disasters. Its growth is also helped by the cheaper dollar, which is boosting exports.

Econoday reports ISM’s manufacturing index, already running well beyond strength in factory data out of Washington, is accelerating even further, to an index of 60.8 in September which is a 13-year best. Part of the gain in the index is tied to hurricanes and specifically deliveries times where slowing is translated as strength, as we said.

But it’s more than that—maybe those higher exports are boosting GDP growth as well? Factory new orders rose 4.3 points in the month to 64.6 which is a 4-year high. And the hurricanes didn’t slow down production which is at a very strong 62.2. Employment is a big standout in today’s report, posting the first 60 score at 60.3 in 6-1/2 years.


Graph: Econoday

The ‘other’ non-manufacturing service sector part of the economy is also growing robustly. The headline ISM non-manufacturing survey index jumped to 59.8 for the highest score in more than 3 years. New orders, that include strength for exports, jumped nearly 5 points to a robust 61.3 level that was last exceeded in April this year. Backlog orders jumped 2.5 points to 56.0 which helped employment rise 6 tenths to 56.8 with both these readings the strongest since May this year.

So the U.S. economy is firing on all cylinders, which is why the Fed is making louder noises re a December rate hike, in spite of nonexistent inflation. Why do so? Because it wants to gradually sell off its $4.5 billion hoard of government securities, which reverses the various QE programs that injected that much cash to boost growth.

So with less cash in circulation, money is no longer so cheap and market interest rates tend to rise. The Fed wants to be able to anticipate this trend.

But shouldn’t we be seeing more indications of higher growth than just one quarter of 3.1 percent GDP growth? That may happen if more federal funding than a measly $14.6 billion is available for Hurricane Harvey alone, when cleanup may cost $200 billion

Government-is-the-problem Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has changed his tune now that Texas is in need of federal funding. He said he thinks the state will need “far in excess” of $125 billion in federal relief dollars. Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called for a record-breaking $150 billion aid package on CNN recently.

Really, and who knows what Florida and Puerto Rico’s cleanup will cost? In fact, it will take such large amounts of federal spending to even sustain last quarter’s 3.1 percent growth rate, in my opinion.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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