« Links for 05-06-16 | Main | Paul Krugman: Truth and Trumpism »

Friday, May 06, 2016

Payroll Number Lower than Expected but Trend Holds at 200,000

Jared Bernstein on the jobs report:

Jobs report: Payroll number lower than expected but trend holds at 200,000: Payrolls rose 160,000 last month, less than the 200,000 we’ve come to expect and the smallest monthly gain since last September. Revisions to the prior two months data shaved 19,000 off of their previously reported gains.
However, though this slower pace could represent a downshift in the rate of job creation, it is far too soon to jump to that conclusion. These monthly numbers are jumpy and require averaging a few months’ gains to get at the underlying trend. In fact, the monthly trend over the past three months is precisely 200,000... So, even while one can point to other slowing indicators, especially the 0.5% GDP growth in the first quarter of the year, do not assume the job market is softening.
The rest of the report provides indicators that bounce both ways. On the soft side, the slipping of the labor force participation rate was a real disappointment and a reversal of a recent upward trend in this closely watched metric of movements in and out of the labor force (see figure). After rising from a low of 62.4% last September to 63% in April, the LFPR ticked back down in May to 62.8%. That’s still significantly off its lows, and again, the monthly numbers are jumpy, but this was the number I liked least in today’s report, especially since the same 0.2 percentage point decline was seen among prime-age workers, meaning the drop can’t be pinned on aging retirees.
On the other hand, both average hourly wages and weekly earnings continue to beat (very low) inflation (weekly hours ticked up slightly last month), with both earnings measures up 2.5% over the past year, while inflation’s running around 1%. ...
Underemployment, which includes about six million part-time workers who’d rather work full-time (and are thus under-employed), ticked down slightly but remains elevated at 9.7%. I’ve argued that an underemployment rate about a percentage point lower than this is consistent with full-employment, meaning there’s still slack left to be squeezed out of the job market. ...
As noted, GDP rose only 0.5% and productivity fell 1% in the first quarter of this year, obviously weak indicators. Now we can add a jobs report that’s off its recent pace. Is the U.S. economy, just about to hit year seven of an expansion that begin in mid-2009, heading toward recession?
That’s unknowable, but I would strongly avoid reading too much into these indicators. On a year-over-year basis, GDP is up about 2%, which is about its trend in the recovery. ...
In other words, filtering out some statistical noise, we’re growing at trend. Productivity is too low, but the job market is tightening and wage growth is getting a bit of a boost. We certainly want to take note of the weaknesses in the “high-frequency” data, but a month or a quarter does not a new trend make.

Dean Baker:

... The April job growth figure is lower than most economists had expected, but still quite fast given the pace of economic growth. Unless there is a marked speed up in the recovery to a pace of more than 2.0 percent, it is likely that job growth will slow further. It seems implausible that productivity growth will remain below 1.0 percent. ...

Also: Calculated Risk, White House.

    Posted by on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 07:33 AM in Economics, Unemployment | Permalink  Comments (67)


    Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.