Naroff Economic Advisors — May Employment Report

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: May Employment Report

KEY DATA: Payrolls: +69,000; Unemployment Rate: 8.2% (up 0.1 percentage point)

IN A NUTSHELL: “There is no sugar-coating this report, it was bad.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The so-called “all important” employment report was released today and it was a real stunner. Job gains in May were disappointing, to say the least.

Yes, there were the usual strange elements. For example, construction, including residential and large projects such as road construction was down sharply. There were no other data to indicate this was happening. We also saw major cut backs in seasonal industries such as garden supply stores and in amusement and recreation.

Did we really stop working on our back yards and going to baseball games? Okay, those of us in Philadelphia are a little upset about the Phillies, but that is a different story. But the rest of the report was nothing great as there were few areas outside health care where hiring was solid.

The government at all levels, keeps cutting back and that is not helping. There were other reasons to be concerned. Wages and hours worked were down which has negative implications for income. As for the unemployment rate, there was at least a little some news in the disappointing rise in the rate. The increase was driven by a huge jump in people looking for work.

While employment was up sharply in this survey, it could not keep up with the rise in the labor force. We have been looking for this uptick in the workforce for a while as it normally signals an improving outlook on the economy.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: There is little positive in this report other than a rise in the labor force. Businesses have become really cautious, a pattern we saw last year at this time. Then, high gasoline prices, a tsunami and the insanity in Washington joined to crater the economy. By the fall, conditions had turned back around.

This year, high gasoline prices, Europe and the looming end of year Washington insanity are playing on the minds of households and businesses. Will we see a rebound as we did last year? That is not clear but we can hope so. I say that because I have no good explanation for the sharp deceleration in hiring has occurred.

Were any of the factors listed above so great as to stop businesses from adding workers? Are households really changing spending patterns because of Europe or Washington? Not if you consider the solid rise in consumption and inflation adjusted disposable income in April. Since I cannot point to anything to clearly explain the slowdown I will simply wait and see and worry.

As for investors who are already fearful of Europe, this report can only add to their concerns. Meanwhile, with rates so low, the Fed really has nothing to do. The markets are doing the job for it.

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RE/MAX Connection Realtors is not a licensed financial advisor and is not providing any financial advice. You should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors only is providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.

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Naroff Economic Advisors — January Employment Report

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.

Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: January Employment Report

KEY DATA: Payrolls: +243,000; Private Sector: +257,000; Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (down 0.2 percentage point)

IN A NUTSHELL: “The economy is starting to turn the corner and the labor market is finally becoming a beneficiary of the improving economic conditions.”

WHAT IT MEANS: For months the data were coming in stronger than expected but it was not clear that businesses were willing to loosen the hiring strings. Well, that may be changing. Private sector firms hired a ton of new workers in January and the gains were across the board.

We were not just talking about service sector positions, though there were a lot of those. But while retailers added only about 10,000 workers, manufacturers hired an additional 50,000 people. Construction, wholesale trade, health care, transportation, professional services, temporary help and restaurants all joined in on the hiring binge.

There was some weakness in finance and information services. The biggest cutbacks, though, were in the public sector, as usual. Local education is still suffering the largest brunt of the budget cutbacks. With hours worked and wages rising, income should be up solidly as well. That will add to spending power, which is badly needed.

But the really good news was on unemployment front. The unemployment rate hit its lowest level in three years. There have been three consecutive declines of 0.2 percentage point, a drop that is much faster than anyone expected but not likely to be sustained.

In January, the improvement came despite a sharp rise in the labor force. That was offset by a huge increase in the number of people who say they are employed, showing it was the economy not statistics that are driving down the rate. (Note: The unemployment rate and payroll numbers come from a different survey.)

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This is the first time in a long time I can talk effusively about an employment report. It was strong in all components. Payroll gains were across the board. The unemployment rate decline resulted from rising employment not a declining labor force. Wages rose as did hours worked. What was not to like? Nothing!

Since the bottom was hit in February 2010, the private sector has brought back almost 3.7 million workers. Clearly, the jobless recovery is no longer jobless. Still, can we expect the good news to persist? Maybe not at the pace we saw in January, but conditions are such that solid payroll gains and a slow steady decline in the unemployment rate are likely to continue.

Unemployment claims are low enough to support further declines in the rate. Improving conditions in the manufacturing and services sector as reported by the Institute for Supply Management argue that the payroll increases can be sustained.

We still face the restraints of weak housing and limited credit so don’t expect economic or employment growth to surge. But it is likely we will see at least 2.5 million new jobs created this year. The unemployment rate could go below 8% by the fall. Those are not spectacular numbers but just a few months ago not very many people had that in their forecasts (I did, which is why I am saying that.)

Investors should love this report but Mr. Bernanke should be wondering why he insisted on saying that rates will stay low for another three years. If this labor market improvement continues, that is not likely to happen.

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RE/MAX Connection Realtors is not a licensed financial advisor and is not providing any financial advice. You should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors only is providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.

Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.

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Naroff Economic Advisors — December employment report

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.

Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: December Employment Report

KEY DATA: Payrolls: 200,000; Private Sector: 212,000; Unemployment Rate: 8.5% (down 0.1 percentage point)

IN A NUTSHELL: “It may not be a lean, mean jobs machine just yet but the labor market is finally starting to pick up steam.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Yes, it is all about jobs. That is not a political comment but a commentary on the missing link in the economic recovery. Job growth affects confidence which in turn affects spending and ultimately the willingness and need of business to add workers.

At least in December, companies began the process of rebuilding their workforces at a decent, though hardly robust pace. The payroll gains were widespread. There were some large increases in seasonal sectors such as retail, warehousing and transportation.

It took a lot of people to meet the strong holiday shopping season and get the gifts to everyone on time. But there were also solid gains in the manufacturing, business services, health care and two of the weakest areas, construction and finance. Declines were posted in the shrinking state and local government sector and strangely in the temporary help industry.

Normally during the holiday shopping season you would expect strong increases in the usage of temps but that didn’t seem to be the case. But the biggest news was the decline in the unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly three years. It was expected to rise and the continued drop is good news. Some may argue that the downward movement is being driven by a shrinking labor force. Ideally, you want the rate to decline as more people seek work but a much larger number of people find work.

However, the length of the slow recovery is forcing more and more people off the unemployment rolls. They are part of the labor force when they get unemployment compensation but after nearly two years of not finding work, a lot of people simply give up. In essence, they were bloating the labor force while collecting unemployment and now the labor force is better reflecting job search decisions.

Another positive element of the report was a rise in hours worked and hourly wages. That bodes well for income growth, which has to accelerate if demand and economic activity is to pick up steam.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This was a better than expected report in all ways: There were more jobs created than most economists thought while the unemployment rate fell instead of the predicted rise.

Unfortunately, we need more like 300,000 jobs to get the unemployment rate coming down consistently and rapidly and that is not likely to happen this year. Also, firms need to grow wages faster if consumption is to accelerate. There is not a lot of appetite to give raises.

So while this is a good report, we need more of them and they need to get a lot better if the economy is to start expanding strongly. Nevertheless, this is another in the long line of positive indications that the economy is starting to come back. Investors should embrace this report but with Iran making threats and Europe a constant worry, who knows where the markets will go.

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RE/MAX Connection Realtors is not a licensed financial advisor and is not providing any financial advice. You should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors only is providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.

Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 Lincoln Drive East, Suite Two, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com.

November Employment Situation

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: November Employment Situation
KEY DATA: Payrolls: 120,000; Private Sector: 140,000; Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (down 0.4 percentage point)

IN A NUTSHELL: “It was nice to see the unemployment rate come down but if we are to see it continue to fall, firms will have to hire a lot more people than they did in November.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The November employment report was another of those good news/bad news releases. On the positive side, the unemployment rate fell sharply to its lowest level since March 2009. That was the teeth of the recession and the rate was racing upwards. Unfortunately, some of the decline came from a large drop in the labor force and that is not a sign of growing confidence that jobs are available. That said, the labor force numbers are fairly volatile so I will withhold judgment. Regardless, this large a decline in the unemployment rate is usually not sustainable unless job gains are being added robustly and that just is not the case. Hiring remains less than hoped for and as usual it was restrained by continued cut backs in the public sector. The construction sector is still shrinking though there have been other indications that activity has improved. Weakness in nondurable goods manufacturing almost completely offset increases in durable goods hiring. We did see the retail, finance, insurance, temporary help, education, health care and restaurant sectors add workers. So far this year, the private sector has added about 1.7 million new positions while the public sector has cut about 260,000 jobs. Earnings were down a touch and that does not bode well for income growth.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Private sector additions to payrolls were better than initial expectations but not nearly enough to keep the unemployment rate from continuously declining. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the rate ticks up next month. But I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole the employment report as there is little doubt that the sharp drop in the unemployment rate will be the biggest news in the media. That should lead to some firming in confidence. Also, the solid Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales numbers, combined with improving vehicle sales point to consumers slowly opening their wallets. That is the signal businesses need to start ramping up hiring. Actually, that could be happening already and the data are simply not keeping up. Both the August and September job gain numbers were revised upward by about 100,000 from the original estimates. Over the past three months, the private sector has added an average of about 160,000 workers and that is likely to be revised upward as well. While that pace is not great, it is much better than is commonly perceived. It is also in hailing distance of the rate needed to keep the unemployment rate coming down fairly consistently. But we are not there yet and it will require continued consumer spending and clearing the European financial and coming economic disaster hurdle before that does occur. All said, this is a good report that holds out hope for better things to come but not so great that anyone should think the labor market is healthy and all is well with the world.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

September Employment Situation

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: September Employment Situation
KEY DATA: Payrolls: 103,000; Private Sector: 137,000; Government: -34,000; Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (unchanged)

IN A NUTSHELL: “Better than expected is nice but we need employment gains to grow a lot faster if the unemployment rate is to come down.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Well, the sky is not falling just yet. Businesses continue to add workers and it is hard to see how we could be in recession if payrolls are growing. Still, the job gains in September were not great. The private sector’s increase was bloated by a return of about 45,000 striking communications workers. They were considered off the rolls in August. A strong gain was posted in the construction sector as nonresidential activity picked up solidly. Let’s wait to see if this is a trend. Retail, telecommunications, health care and professional services all were up. On the other hand, manufacturers became more conservative and cut their workforces a touch. The uncertainty about the world economy seems to be trumping solid order growth. Finance, transportation and wholesaling were also off. But the big negative was government workers, especially local education. Meanwhile, state governments added workers. And I thought it was the state governments that were having fiscal problems. The number of people finding positions was not enough to lower the unemployment rate, which remained at a way too high 9.1%. A rise in the labor force, which I have noted in the past is a sign of growing confidence, offset a rise in employment. The trend in job growth may be changing. Both the July and August numbers were revised upward, by a total of almost 100,000, and that may indicate there is some acceleration in hiring going on. Also, hours worked and wages rose so income gains have improved.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: It’s incredible how low our sights have been set. The idea that 103,000 workers being added in one month is good and should buoy investors is depressing. We need to be seeing job gains in the 200,000 range. But to get there the public sector has play its part, or at least stop getting so much in the way. In past recoveries, we might have had 25,000 jobs added, a swing of about 60,000 in the September total. In addition, home construction, a huge driver of job gains, needs to improve. With construction weak and government negative, the chances of getting back to strong payroll growth in the near future are not great. I see that happening, but closer to next spring when government layoffs should ease and construction may be somewhat better. Still, the markets should like this number, if investors can see past Greece and the downgrades of European banks. This is not a report that will tell the Fed that Operation Twist (the Fed calls it a “maturity extension program”) is unnecessary. Indeed, it only reinforces the view that with government cutting back, monetary policy is the only tool left to bolster growth.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

June Housing Starts and Permits

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: June Housing Starts and Permits
KEY DATA: Starts: +14.6%; 1-Family: +9.4%; 5+ Units: +31.8%; Permits: +2.5%; 5+ units: 8.2%

IN A NUTSHELL: “Given how low home construction was, it wasn’t surprising to see and increase but the surge in starts is an eye-opener.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The housing sector has been the major drag on the recovery. Normally, a jump in construction comes with large increases in employment. That has not happened yet. However, there may be some indications the bottom in home construction is behind us. Housing starts surged well beyond expectations in June. When the May numbers came out, I wrote the following: “Looking forward, home building should pick up soon and possibly quite solidly.” I said that because permit requests were outstripping starts and builders were not spending money on permits for fun. However, I didn’t expect this kind of increase. The gains were distributed across the nation with double-digit increases posted in all areas except the West. The movement into rental housing has triggered a major revitalization of the multifamily sector. The market does work, if you let it. Permit requests continued to move upward so construction should continue to rise in the months to come especially since the number of homes permitted but not started was up. The supply of home being built is also rising. That matches well the rise in builders’ confidence reported by the National Association of Home Builders.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: We have been trying to call the bottom in the home construction sector for quite some time and I think we finally have one. Of course, given how low things have been, the level of activity is still well below what would signal a healthy market. In addition, starts and permits are more in line so don’t expect double-digit construction increases going forward. However, the leading light in this sector of the economy, apartment construction, should do well and with even a modest rise in the single-family segment, housing should start adding to growth during the second half of the year. More importantly, rising construction should bolster job gains and I expect the July employment numbers to be a lot better than the tepid June gains. Investors should like this report, if they are focusing on the fundamental U.S. economy rather than the theater of the absurd being performed in Washington or the continuing uncertainty about European sovereign debt. But this is earnings season, so what businesses report will likely trump some of the economic data. As for the Fed, the members would like to see more months of increases in housing before they start thinking the soft-spot has passed. I think the second half will still be strong, though maybe not quite as robust as I expected a few months ago. We still need lower gasoline prices and I am not sure that is coming.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

February Employment Report

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: February Employment Report

KEY DATA: Payrolls: 192,000; Private Sector: 222,000; Unemployment

Rate: 8.9% (down 0.1 percentage point)

IN A NUTSHELL: “The labor market may not be great just yet but it is firming and that is good news for job seekers.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Economists always look forward to the employment report release and the wait was worth. The economy added jobs at a very solid pace in February powered by strong private sector hiring. The gains were widespread with manufacturing, services and even construction adding to payrolls. Retail was weak but some of that may have been due to the unseasonal as well as brutal weather in places. Normal early spring activity was likely put off. Firms are looking to temp workers again and that is a sign they are ready to get back into the hiring game. The weak link is the state and local government sector, education in particular. Apparently, the path toward global economic domination is through cuts in the education system. And I always thought education was a fundamental part of the nation’s infrastructure. Silly me. Hours worked increased as did wages, though hardly as fast as inflation. Income may be up but when adjusted for the surges in food, energy and other goods it is likely to be down. The best news in the report was the drop in the unemployment rate, to the lowest level since April 2009. I had been expected it to rise as discouraged workers come back into the workforce. But while the labor force did rise, more jobs were created so the rate went down. Don’t be surprised if we get periodic up ticks in the rate going forward as there are lots of dropouts who are likely to show back up over the next couple of years.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This was a very good report that indicates the labor market is coming back. Yes, some of the rise can be ascribed to a rebound from the desultory January increase. Last month’s gain was revised upward but 73,000 is still not a great number. In addition, since a job is a job is a job, the cuts in the public sector have to be replaced before any economy-wide payroll increase can occur so the pressure is even greater on the private sector to hire more robustly. That is a concern as rising energy, food and other goods costs will likely slow growth during the first half of the year. Nevertheless, when you look at the totality of the economic data released this week, it is clear that the Great Recession is becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the Great Recovery is not here and indeed may not happen as long as rising prices, limited credit availability, large numbers of foreclosures and high commercial vacancy rates constrain spending and construction. Those are the factors that seem to dominate Mr. Bernanke’s thinking and why he is so set on keeping rates low and liquidity high “for an extended period”, whatever that means. As for investors, it is oil vs. growth and petroleum may be the slippery slope that greases the wheels of a market correction (Sorry about that).

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advise, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

January 26, 2011 FOMC Decision

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.

Joel L. Naroff

President and Chief Economist 

January 26, 2011 FOMC Decision 

“…the economic recovery is continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring about a significant improvement in labor market conditions.”

 Rate Decision: Fed funds rate maintained at a range between 0% and 0.25%

The FOMC met again and what they did for two days is anyone’s guess.  Clearly, even the wordsmiths at the Fed couldn’t have had their time completely taken up by the modest but hardly substantial changes in the statement.   The members noted at the start that “the economic recovery is continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring about a significant improvement in labor market conditions.”  That points up the continued obsession with jobs and the unemployment rate.  Until employment growth is clearly at a sustainable level that will reduce the unemployment rate, this Fed will be loathe to change policy.  But there were cautious views about consumer spending and business investment as well. 

 Once again, the Fed stated that economic conditions “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.”   The basis for this stance remains the low inflation rate.  As long as the Committee can continue to write that “longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable, and measures of underlying inflation have been trending downward”, there is little the inflation hawks can truly bleat about.  Of course that could mean a rise in core inflation would create some real issues for the FOMC.  So watch the core, regardless of your views on whether food and energy matter (I think they do) and if it starts to accelerate on a consistent basis, look for some of the members to start dissenting again. 

 As for the QE2, not surprisingly it is being continued and I expect the full $600 billion of purchases to be made.  But when we get to the late June meeting, the FOMC will have to deal with the completion of the program.  Don’t be surprised if there are no more purchases but the Committee continues “its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings”.   In essence, stage one of the withdrawal of liquidity will come with the end of the quantitative easing program, state two will be the end of the reinvestment of principal and state three will be direct withdrawals of liquidity and rate hikes.  That last stage will not likely occur before late this year.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advise, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com