Friday, March 8, 2019

Feb US jobs decline - to the norm

Wasn't expecting this news today.
The U.S. economy added a sharply lower-than-expected 20,000 payrolls in February...Consensus expectations called for 180,000 positions to be added for the month, according to Bloomberg data. February's headline reading for new payrolls was the weakest in 17 months.
YIKES! That's not really the sign of a thriving economy, especially on the heels of some other shaky reports and concerns due to consumers having to pay up for the GOP's Tax Scam.

However, when you combine last month's jobs numbers with the January figures, it doesn't seem so bad.

Change in jobs
Feb 2019 +20,000
Jan 2019 (revised) +311,000
Average +165,500

Conversely, the huge increase in average hourly earnings came on the heels of a tiny increase the month before.

Change in average hourly wages
Feb 2019 +11 cents (0.4%)
Jan 2019 +2 cents (0.1%)
TOTAL CHANGE + 13 cents (0.5%)

It also seems that both of these numbers were affected by the brutal weather of mid-February (when the employment survey was made). The largest job losses for February were in construction (-31,000), and it seems likely that many lower-wage part-timers had hours reduced due to the weather, which would mean more wages were earned by higher-wage full-time workers.

So while the top lines of 20,000 jobs may make you think "uh oh", and a 3.4% annual increase in wages may make you think "great!", I'm not sure either apply here. Both are the opposite of what we saw in the January report, while the average of those 2 months is mostly on line with where we've been.

While there have been other warnings of an economic slowdown, due to drops in consumer spending for December and incomes for January, we will need another month of lame jobs data in March before I'm willing to say things are bad.

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