Friday, October 2, 2009

Employment Situation

Released on 10/2/2009 8:30:00 AM For September, 2009
Prior Consensus Consensus Range Actual
Nonfarm Payrolls - M/M change -216,000 -170,000 -235,000 to -135,000 -263,000
Unemployment Rate - Level 9.7 % 9.8 % 9.6 % to 9.9 % 9.8 %
Average Hourly Earnings - M/M change 0.3 % 0.2 % 0.1 % to 0.3 % 0.1 %
Average Workweek - Level 33.1 hrs 33.1 hrs 33.1 hrs to 33.2 hrs 33.0 hrs

The September jobs report was disappointing-but the consensus may have grown too optimistic. In reality, job losses are not nearly as severe as earlier in the recession and the unemployment rate is drifting up slowly as expected. Nonfarm payroll employment in September fell 263,000, following a revised decline of 201,000 in August and a revised decrease of 304,000 in July. The September drop in payroll employment was worse than the consensus forecast for a 170,000 contraction. August and July revisions were down a net 13,000 (the net declines were worse).

Job losses were widespread in both goods-producing and service-providing sectors. By major categories, goods-producing jobs decreased 116,000 in September, following a 132,000 drop the month before. In the latest month, construction jobs fell 64,000 while manufacturing declined 51,000 and mining slipped 1,000. Service-providing losses, however, surged back to a 147,000 fall, after contracting only 69,000 in August. The drop in service-providing jobs was led by trade & transportation, down 60,000, and by government, down 53,000. Trade was tugged down mainly by retail jobs which fell 39,000. Government weakness was led by the non-education component of local government, down 24,000, as revenue shortfalls have forced job cuts despite fiscal stimulus monies.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, payroll employment has fallen by 7.2 million.

On a year-ago basis, payroll jobs were down 4.2 percent in September-slightly better than down 4.3 percent the previous month.

Wage inflation eased sharply as average hourly earnings in September grew 0.1 percent, following a 0.4 percent gain in August. The consensus had projected a 0.2 percent rise for the latest month. The average workweek slipped to 33.0 hours from 33.1 hours in August, coming in below the market forecast for 33.1 hours.

Turning to the household survey, the civilian unemployment rate continued its uptrend, rising to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent in August and compared to the market forecast for 9.8 percent. The latest rate is the highest since 1983.

Today's employment report will set equities back as futures were down notably on the release. Bond yields fell. However, the numbers are not dramatically negative and on average over the last few months reflect improvement. It is too early to write off the recovery given that nearly everyone expected a sluggish and choppy recovery.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Nonfarm payroll employment in August fell 216,000, following a decrease of 276,000 in July and a decline of 463,000 in June. By major categories, goods-producing jobs dropped 136,000 in August, following a 122,000 decrease the month before. The slowing in overall payroll job cuts was due to fewer pink slips in the services sector. Service-providing losses were cut in half with an 80,000 decline after falling 154,000 in July. Wage inflation warmed up a bit-likely due to a jump in the minimum wage. Average hourly earnings in August rose 0.3 percent, matching July's gain.

The employment situation is a set of labor market indicators based on two separate surveys in this one report. Based on the Household Survey, the unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labor force. Other key series come from the Establishment Survey (of business establishments). Nonfarm payroll employment counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation's business and government establishments. The average workweek reflects the number of hours worked in the nonfarm sector. Average hourly earnings reveal the basic hourly rate for major industries as indicated in nonfarm payrolls.

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