Saturday, October 6, 2012

6/10/2012: US Payroll Data for September 2012



So far, 2012 has been a volatile year for jobs creation in the US and the latest figures released yesterday confirm this volatility, albeit this time to the pleasant side. Expansion of NF payroll by 114,000 in September came in slightly below expectations, but alongside trend. More significant reading was accorded to the upward revisions for previous level of employment. NF payrolls for July went up from 141,000 to 181,000 and for August from 96,000 to 142,000 - a cumulated increase of 86,000 on previous estimates. However, private sector payrolls rose disappointing 104,000 some 30% below the consensus and up only slightly on 97,000 increase in August. Meanwhile hourly earnings were up 0.3% outstripping both expectations and August flat performance (+0.0%). Average weekly hours worked went up by statistically insignificant 0.1 hours to 34.5 hours.

On the optimism deflating side of things, we have Q1 average increases in NFP of 226,000, followed by Q2 increases in NFP of 67,000. Now we have Q3 at 145,700 average which is 146,200 monthly average. In other words, despite massive revisions, Q3 is not spectacular when it comes to jobs creation.

Headline unemployment figure showed most dramatic change in yesterday's report declining from 8.1% in August to 7.8% in September and bringing US unemployment to the lowest rate since January 2009. This accelerates decline of 0.2% in unemployment rate recorded in August. Good news - labour market participation rate rose from 63.5% in August to 63.6% in September. Which means more people were finding jobs. Alas, back in 2010-2011 the participation rate stood at 64.4% on average, ahead of the current level. And the number of those in employment rose by 873,000 against the drop of those unemployed by 456,000. But, again, that silver lining contains a sizable cloud over it: employment to population ratio rose to just around 58.5%, which is only slightly ahead of 58.4 in 2010-2011 and well behind 62.7% in 2003-2007 and 60.8% in 2008-2009.

However, the decline in unemployment is really an over-exaggeration of the actual labour market performance for a number of reasons:

  • A number of commentators correctly pointed that household survey - the basis for calculating unemployment rate - has been returning very volatile readings.
  • Ending of the emergency unemployment benefits during the summer also most likely contributed to pushing people into employment (something that would be consistent with increases in employment being predominantly in lower wages and part-time jobs - see below). It is worth remembering that emergency extensions to benefits were cut fully back in May. As the result, unemployment benefits extensions dropped by some 865,000 since May.
  • Part-time involuntary employment accounts for 3/4 of the total gains in employment over June-September 2012 with numbers of part-time workers who would like to have a full-time job, but can't find one rising 582,000. Overall, U6 unemployment rate (those unemployed and underemployed) remained at 14.7% in September, showing that virtually all gains in the labour market in the US are low quality. And further confirming this, the percentage of long-term unemployed (in excess of 6 months) in total unemployment rose to 40.1% in September from 40.0% a month before.

See the chart (via Citi Research):



So to the Obama Camp optimists out there - the trend in jobs improvements is exceptionally weak, and at a risk of being derailed completely once electioneering-induced pause in fiscal adjustments is over comes January 2013. And to Mitt Romney Camp contrarians out there - the trend in jobs improvements is still present, if only in a sense of absent deterioration. 

Glass half-full and half-empty...


Update:  and here is an excellent post from the Sober Look blog on the sub-trends in US consumer credit 'growth'...
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