NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist
INDICATOR: July Employment Report
KEY DATA: Payrolls: 117,000; Private Sector: 154,000; State and Local Governments: -39,000; Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (down 0.1 percentage point)
IN A NUTSHELL: “You can tell how worried people are when 117,000 new jobs actually look like a good report.”
WHAT IT MEANS: The reports of the death of the recovery appear to be quite a bit premature. The private sector added jobs at a decent pace in July. Okay, the level is clearly not enough to get the unemployment rate to fall very much despite the decline posted in July. Though down is good, we need better job gains in the months ahead to really make a dent in the way too high unemployment rate. This report, though, does hold out hope that that could happen. The increases were widespread with just about every sector from manufacturing through retail and services showing gains in payrolls. There was even some hiring by construction firms. Once again, we learned that there is no such thing as a free budget cut. State and local governments sliced another 39,000 more people from their rolls and are now down by nearly 350,000 jobs over the past year. In contrast, the private sector added 1.7 million workers during the past twelve months. In normal recoveries, the public sector adds workers. If the public sector simply stayed flat, there would have been over two million jobs added, a moderate not weak recovery. Even a small public sector rise would have led to the July gains being at or above 200,000 and few people would have been worrying about job growth if that were the case. Weekly hours worked and earnings were up solidly and that points to good income growth. Wage and salary income has been lagging and it is hard to get consumers to spend more if they don’t have the money to spend. Maybe that is changing a little.
MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This report points to the simple fact that the economy is not in recession. Hopefully, that buoys fearful investors. There is no arguing that conditions are good but there is a difference between the stock markets and the real economy. Wall Street and Main Street have become delinked. So don’t assume a stock panic means the economy has suddenly nose dived. I stand by my forecast that the economy is not likely to go into another recession and indeed if the decline in oil prices holds up, falling gasoline costs should lead to better growth as we move through the fall. There are implications in this report for Fed policy. The public sector job cut backs are a real drag on growth and the debt ceiling agreement makes it clear that belt tightening will continue to restrain activity for a long time. Monetary policy will have to lean against that headwind and that means the FOMC could signal next week that it is prepared to keep rates low for a longer period of time than had been expected.
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