Friday, November 02, 2007

Jobs Report

The single biggest monthly report on the economy is the Non Farm Payrolls report, a measure of how many jobs have been created in the economy during a given month. This report is released the first Friday of every month and is usually market moving (that is, stocks and bonds react to it). You can read the WSJ report on today's figure here

The WSJ reports that NFP rose a healthy 166 thousand gain in employment for Oct, helping to ease concerns that a recession is immanent. More important than the headline figure, which can be distorted because it is always revised, is the 3m average of 117k. 117k average over 3m is a healthy figure given market conditions.

Why is this important? Think of jobs as a way to estimate whether aggregate demand is going to be strong or weak. If employers were expecting AD to be weak, then they probably would not be hiring employees in order to boost output. Further, an increase the amount of jobs boosts income and this should help to support spending. This is extra important at a time when falling home prices threaten to hurt consumer spending.

However, economists debate whether this report can be used to predict the economies future. Some economic data is considered to be a "leading indicator of the economy" while others tend to be a "lagging indicator." Click here for a detailed breakdown over which economic data is considered leading or lagging.

In general, the unemployment rate is considered to be a lagging indicator (that is, the economy will slow and then the unemployment rate will rise). The payroll report is sometimes considered a lagging indicator but other times is considered a "coincident" indicator (it falls as the economy is weakening). In this case the markets are likely to consider it a coincident indicator and this should help ease concerns over a recession.

However, all is not well since the stock market fell yesterday and data on the housing market has been extremely weak. Although the stock market could see a rally today, I doubt it will return to the highs of early Oct before the latest round of worries commenced. It is, however, safe to say the Fed will not be cutting next month with GDP and employment coming in rather strong (pointing to decent AD) and oil prices so high (pointing to possible near term inflation).

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