August NFP sends US from HERO to ZERO?

Labor market data for the US released on Friday was not the news world economy was expecting. Zero job creation does not sit well with an economy that was supposed to grow. After all the money pumped in the US economy it looks like something is not working. But it is just one data point. True, the recent data for US has shown an economy slowing down, but it could also be the summer, a lot of jobs created in the first part of the year, the much talked about Verizon strike.

On this one I would look at the positive and still think that US is slowing down but not certain about a recession yet. Still, I would not go as crazy as all wall-street analysts and say this is good time to buy.

Here are some other views on the US labor market data:

Chart of the Day:Today, the Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls (jobs) were unchanged in August. Today’s chart provides some perspective on the US job market. Note how the number of jobs steadily increased from 1961 to 2001 (top chart). During the last economic recovery (i.e. the end of 2001 to the end of 2007), job growth was unable to get back up to its long-term trend (first time since 1961). During the current cycle, nonfarm payrolls have pulled away from its 40-year trend (from 1961-2001) by a record amount (see bottom chart). In fact, the current number of US jobs is well below its 2001 peak.

Labor Market


Breakdown: August 2011 NFP Data

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On September 2, 2011

Some asterisks on this job number, but overall, quite weak, and a continuation of the downtrend for the 4th consecutive month. This was the weakest NFP report in almost a year.

A Verizon strike is the key asterisk to this report — that shed 45k employed from the overall picture.

Lets breakdown the August data. The headline number was that job growth was unchanged in August, as was UE, but the details are where are the goodies are found.

Some specifics:

• Total nonfarm payroll employment, at 131.1 million, was unchanged (0) in August. Employment changed little in most major private-sector industries.
• Household survey shows the number of unemployed persons, at 14.0 million, was unchanged from last month;
• Involuntary part-time workers rose from 8.4 million to 8.8 million in August.
• 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, up from 2.4 million a year earlier;
• Revisions were negative: June was revised from +46k to +20k; July was revised from +117k to +85k.
• Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.9%, which is soft.
• Average workweek for all employees edged down by 0.1 hour over the month to 34.2 hours. This is a leading indicator, and its discouraging.
• Manufacturing workweek was stable at 40.3 hours for the 3rd consecutive month; factory overtime increased by 0.1 hour over the month to 3.2 hours.
• Average hourly earnings for all employees in August decreased by 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $23.09. Also a leading indicator, also discouraging.
• Temp Employment Help services changed little over the month (+5,000) and has shown little movement on net so far this year. (Also a leading indicator)
• Sectors showing employment gains: Health care (+30,000), Mining (+6,000), Professional and business services (+8,000). Over the past 12 months, health care employment has grown by 306,000, and since reaching a trough in October 2009, employment in mining has risen by 144,000
• Information industry (-48,000) Manufacturing (-3,000), Government (-17,000). Construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; financial activities; and leisure and
hospitality were unchanged
• * the asterisk: Employment in the information industry declined by 48,000 in August. About 45,000 workers in the telecommunications industry were on strike and thus off company payrolls during the survey reference period.

Economist Justin Wolfers tweeted “Congress owns this report. But I’m even more worried about the September report. Debt ceiling madness has real consequences.” I am unsure how much the kabuki theater in July and August impacted this report — its more accurate to say that a misguided Congress, along with an inept White House economic team, owns this economy.

And finally for a very detailed analysis of the labor market look here.





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