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304 matches for " labor market":
Chair Yellen broke no new ground in her Testimony yesterday, repeating her long-standing view that the tightening labor market requires the Fed to continue normalizing policy at a gradual pace.
The Mexican labor market has remained relatively healthy in recent months, despite many external and domestic headwinds. Formal employment has increased by 2.1% year-to-date and by 3½% in the year to July, according to the Mexican Social Security Institute.
Some of the recent labor market data appear contradictory. For example, the official JOLTS measure of the number of job openings has spiked to an all-time high, and the number of openings is now greater than the number of unemployed people, for the first time since the data series begins, in 2001.
The 351K net increase in payrolls reported Friday--a 261K October gain and a 90K total revision to August and September--puts the labor market back on track after the hurricanes temporarily hit the data.
One of the arguments we hear in favor of an endless Fed pause--in other words, the cyclical tightening is over--is that GDP growth is set to slow markedly this year, to only 2% or so.
Fed Chair Yellen's speech in Cleveland yesterday elaborated on the key themes from last week's FOMC meeting.
It would be astonishing if the Fed doesn't raise rates today, and Chair Powell is not in the astonishment business; they will hike by 25bp.
We're pretty sure that the unemployment rate didn't drop by 0.3 percentage points in November. We're pretty sure hourly earnings didn't fall by 0.1%. And we're pretty sure payrolls didn't rise by 178K. All the employment data are unreliable month-to-month, with the wages numbers particularly susceptible to technical quirks.
The Fed today will do nothing to rates and won't materially change the language of the post-meeting statement.
We aren't perturbed by the undershoot in December payrolls, relative both to the October and November numbers and all the leading indicators.
The return to normal in the March payroll numbers, with a 196K headline increase, is another nail in the coffin of the "imminent recession" theory.
We have argued consistently for some time that the next year will bring a clear acceleration in U.S. wage growth, because the unemployment rate has fallen below the Nairu and a host of business survey indicators point to clear upward wage pressures. Nominal wage growth has been constrained, in our view, by the unexpected decline in core inflation from 2012 through early 2015, which boosted real wage growth and, hence, eased the pressure from employees for bigger nominal raises.
Expectations for a March rate hike have dipped since Fed Vice-Chair Clarida's CNBC interview last Friday.
We were happy to see upside surprises from both sides of the domestic economy yesterday, but we doubt that the August readings from both the Conference Board's consumer confidence survey and the Richmond Fed business survey can hold.
Hideous though the official April payroll numbers were, the chances are that they'll be revised down.
In the wake of last week's rate increase, the fed funds future puts the chance of another rise in September at just 16%. After hikes in December, March and June, we think the Fed is trying to tell us something about their intention to keep going; this is not 2015 or 2016, when the Fed happily accepted any excuse not to do what it had said it would do.
Fed Chair Powell broke no new ground in his Senate Testimony alongside--virtually--Treasury Secretary Mnuchin yesterday, maintaining the cautious tone of his recent public statements.
It's very tempting to look at the upturn in the participation rate in recent months and extrapolate it into a sustained upward trend. If the trend were to rise quickly enough, it conceivably could prevent any further fall in the unemployment rate, preventing it falling below the bottom of the Fed's estimated Nairu range.
Here's the bottom line: U.S. businesses appear to have over-reacted to the impact of the trade war in their responses to most surveys, pointing to a serious downturn in economic growth which has not materialized.
Fed Chair Yellen is a committed believer in the orthodox idea that inflation is largely a cost-push phenomenon, and that the most important cost, by far, is labor. So in order to predict what Dr. Yellen might say about the outlook for Fed policy in her Testimony today--beyond the language of the January FOMC statement--we have to take a view on her assessment of the state of the labor market.
The unexpectedly robust 128K increase in October payrolls--about 175K when the GM strikers are added back in--and the 98K aggregate upward revision to August and September change our picture of the labor market in the late summer and early fall.
The shortfall in nominal wage growth, relative to measures of labor market tightness, remains the single biggest mystery of this business cycle.
The minutes of the May 2/3 FOMC meeting today should add some color to policymakers' blunt assertion that "The Committee views the slowing in growth during the first quarter as likely to be transitory and continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further, and inflation will stabilize around 2 percent over the medium term."
We already know that the key labor market numbers in today's May NFIB survey are strong.
The failure of labor market participation to increase as the economy has gathered pace, pushing unemployment down from its 10.0% peak to just 3.7%in September, is one of the biggest macro mysteries in recent years.
Chair Yellen remains as committed as ever to the idea that the tightening labor market will eventually push up inflation, but the unexpectedly weak core CPI readings for the past four months have complicated the picture in the near-term.
Chile's economy is showing the first reliable signs of improvement, at last. December retail sales rose 1.9% year-over-year, up from 0.4% in November, indicating that household expenditure is starting to revive, in line with a pick-up in consumer confidence and the improving labor market.
...The Fed did nothing, surprising no-one; the labor market tightened further; the housing market tracked sideways; survey data mostly slipped a bit; and oil prices jumped nearly $4, briefly nudging above $50 for the first time since May.
Chair Yellen's Testimony sought clearly to tell markets that the Fed has upgraded its view on growth, and the state of the labor market. After reading the first few paragraphs, which focussed clearly on the good news, though peppered with the usual caveats, the door was open for the section on policy to signal unambiguously that the Fed is close to its first tightening.
We've seen some alarming estimates of the potential impact on inflation of the House Republicans' plans for corporate tax reform, with some forecasts suggesting the CPI would be pushed up as much as 5%. We think the impact will be much smaller, more like 1-to-11⁄2% at most, and it could be much less, depending on what happens to the dollar. But the timing would be terrible, given the Fed's fears over the inflation risk posed by the tightness of the labor market.
We expect to learn today that the economy expanded at a 1.7% rate in the fourth quarter. At least, that's our forecast, based on incomplete data, and revisions over time could easily push growth significantly away from this estimate. The inherent unreliability of the GDP numbers, which can be revised forever--literally--explains why the Fed puts so much more emphasis on the labor market data, which are volatile month-to-month but more trustworthy over longer periods and subject to much smaller revisions.
The details of the substantial pay raises being offered to some 18K JP Morgan employees over the next three years are much less important than the signal sent by the company's response to the tightening labor market. In an economy with 144M people on payrolls, hefty raises for JP Morgan employees won't move the needle in the hourly earnings data.
The Fed will hike by 25 basis points today, citing the tightening labor market as the key reason to press ahead with the process of policy normalization. We think the case for adding an extra dot to the plot for both this year and next is powerful.
The falling unemployment rate and the threat it poses to the inflation outlook mean that the labor market numbers in the NFIB small business survey attract more attention than the other data in the report.
The key labor market numbers from today's August NFIB survey of small businesses have already been released--they appear a day or two before the employment report--but they will be reported as though they are news. The headline hiring intentions reading dipped to nine from 12, leaving it near the bottom of the range of the past couple of years.
Today's wave of data will bring new information on the industrial sector, consumers, the labor market, and housing, as well as revisions to the third quarter GDP numbers.
Neither the 33K drop in September payrolls nor the 0.5% jump in hourly earnings tells us anything about the underlying state of the labor market.
We already know that the month-to-month movements in the key labor market components of the December NFIB small business survey were mixed; the data were released last week, ahead the official employment report, as usual.
The further improvement in labor market conditions and the jump in core inflation means that the economic data have given the Fed all the excuse it needs to raise rates today. But the chance of a hike is very small, not least because the fed funds future puts the odds of an action today at just 4%, and the Fed has proved itself very reluctant to surprise investors-- at least, in a bad way--in the past.
If the Fed really believed its own rhetoric--"Inflation is expected... to rise to 2 percent over the medium term as the transitory effects of past declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further"--it would have raised rates yesterday, given the very long lags between policy action and the response from the real economy.
The key labor market numbers from the monthly NFIB survey of small businesses are released ahead of the main report, due today.
Before last November's election, movements in the headline NFIB index of activity and sentiment among small businesses could be predicted quite reliably from shifts in the key labor market components, which are released in advance of the main survey.
It would not be fair to describe the FOMC as gridlocked, because that would imply no clear way out of the current position. Members' views of the risks to the economy, the state of the labor market, and the degree of inflation risk are all over the map, and the chance of a broad consensus emerging any time soon is slim.
Behind all the talk of slowdowns and Fed pauses, we see no sign that the labor market is loosening beyond a very modest uptick in jobless claims, and even that looks suspicious.
On Thursday morning, we'll get the best-performing indicator of the US labor market: initial jobless claims. For a while now, Pantheon Macroeconomics' Ian Shepherdson has been stressing that the weekly print is noisy, particularly with the volatility the end-of-year season brings
Everyone is familiar by now with the conundrum in the labor market: How come wage gains have barely increased over the past few years even as the unemployment rate has fallen to very low levels, and business surveys scream that employers can't find the people they want? To give just one visual example of the scale of the apparent anomaly, our first chart shows the yawning gap between the headline unemployment rate and the rate of growth of hourly earnings, compared to previous cycles.
The FOMC flagged recent market developments as a source of risk to the U.S. economy yesterday, unsurprisingly, but didn't go overboard: "The Committee is closely monitoring global economic and financial developments and is assessing their implications for the labor market and inflation, and for the balance of risks to the outlook."
The May NFIB survey and the April JOLTS report, both released yesterday, paint a coherent, if not yet definitive, picture of labor market developments which should alarm the Fed. The data suggest that the true labor supply, in the eyes of potential employers, is much smaller than implied by the BLS's measures of broad unemployment.
Fed Chair Yellen today needs to strike a balance between addressing investors' concerns over the state of the stock market and the risks posed by slower growth in Asia, and the tightening domestic labor market.
he services sector is seeing "job losses that will not be quickly recovered," says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, as he examines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. labor market. He speaks with Bloomberg's Francine Lacqua on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
The hawks clearly tried hard to persuade their more nervous colleagues to raise rates yesterday. In the end, though, they had to make do with shifting the language of the FOMC statement, which did not read like it had come after a run of weaker data.
The most striking feature of the Fed's new forecasts is the projected overshoot in core PCE inflation at end-2019 and end-2020, which fits our definition of "persistent".
After the strong Philly Fed survey was released last week, we argued that the regional economy likely was outperforming because of its relatively low dependence on exports, making it less vulnerable to the trade war.
We would be very surprised if the Fed were to raise rates today. The Yellen Fed is not in the business of shocking markets, and with the fed funds future putting the odds of a hike at just 22%, action today would assuredly come as a shock, with adverse consequences for all dollar assets.
Yesterday's stock market bloodbath stands in contrast to the U.S. economic data, most of which so far show no impact from the Covid-19 outbreak.
The FOMC's view of the economic outlook and the likely required policy response, set out in yesterday's statement and Chair Yellen's press conference, could not be clearer.
Brazil has made a convincing escape from high inflation in the past few months, laying the groundwork for a gradual economic recovery and faster cuts in interest rates. Mid-March CPI data, released this week, confirmed that inflation pressures eased substantially this month.
The recovery in existing home sales appears to have stalled, at best.
The big difference between economic cycles in developed and emerging markets is that recessions in the former tend to be driven by the unwinding of imbalances only in the private sector, usually in the wake of a tightening of monetary policy.
New home sales have tended to track the path of mortgage applications over the past year or so, with a lag of a few months. The message for today's January sales numbers, show in our next chart, is that sales likely dipped a bit, to about 525K.
The levelling-off in the industrial surveys in recent months is reflected in the consumer sentiment numbers. Anything can happen in any given month, but we'd now be surprised to see sustained further gains in any of the regular monthly surveys.
Chile's central bank cut the country's main interest rate by 25bp to 3.25% last Thursday. The easing was expected, as the board adopted a dovish bias last month, after keeping a neutral stance for most of 2016. Last week's move, coupled with the tone of the communiqué, suggests that further easing is coming, as growth continues to disappoint and inflation pressures are easing.
Full employment is a deceptively simple-sounding concept. If everyone who wants a job has one, the economy is at full employment, right? Anything less tends to raise eyebrows among non-economists, whether the people who want a job are formally inside the labor force, or have dropped out but would come back if they thought they could find work.
Political turmoil in Brazil continues to undermine President Dilma Rousseff's leverage over the economy. On Friday, the Lower House of Congress voted to start impeachment proceeding against Ms. Rousseff. She has until early April to present her defense against charges that she doctored government accounts and used graft proceeds to fund the 2014 electoral campaign.
In the absence of any significant data releases today, we want to take a closer look at the outlook for wage growth, and the implications of an acceleration in hourly earnings for inflation.
It's going to be very hard for Fed Chair Powell's Jackson Hole speech today to satisfy markets, which now expect three further rate cuts by March next year.
After three straight lower-than-expected jobless claims numbers, we have to consider, at least, the idea that maybe the trend is falling again. This would be a remarkable development, given that claims already are at their lowest level ever, when adjusted for population growth, and at their lowest absolute level since the early 1970s.
Two key points can be extracted from the minutes of the last BCB meeting, when policymakers increased the Selic interest rate by 50bp to 12.75%. First, the bank recognized that the balance of risks to inflation has deteriorated, due to the huge adjustment of regulated prices and the BRL's depreciation, but it specifically referred only to "this year" in the communiqué.
In yesterday's Monitor, we argued that if the upside risk in an array of core CPI components crystallised in January, the month-to-month gain would print at 0.3%, for the first time since August. That's exactly what happened, though we couldn't justify it as our base forecast. A combination of rebounding airline fares, apparel prices, new vehicle prices, and education costs conspired to generate a 0.31% gain, lifting the year-over-year rate back to the 2.3% cycle high, first reached in February last year.
"Is EZ fiscal stimulus on the way?" is a question that we receive a lot these days.
Over the past 18 months, the year-over-year rate of growth of manufacturing output has swung from minus 2.1% to plus 2.5%.
The elevated readings from the ISM manufacturing survey this year have not been followed by rapid growth in output. The headline ISM averaged 55.8 in the second quarter, a solid if unspectacular reading. But output rose by only 1.2% year-over-year, and by 1.4% on a quarterly annualized basis.
Economic data in Brazil over the second quarter were relatively positive, and June reports released in recent weeks, coupled with leading indicators for July, are encouraging.
As we reach our deadline on Sunday afternoon, eastern time, Tropical Storm Florence continues to dump vast quantities of rain on the Carolinas, and is forecast to head through Kentucky and Tennessee, before heading north.
The GM strike will make itself felt in the September industrial production data, due today.
The rate of growth of nominal core retail sales substantially outstripped the rate of growth of nominal personal incomes, after tax, in both the second and third quarters.
Recent industrial data for Mexico point to renewed upside risks for GDP growth, despite the likely headwind to consumption from high inflation and depressed confidence.
The Fed's unanimous vote for a 25bp rate hike was overshadowed by the bump up in the dotplot for next year, with three hikes now expected, rather than the two anticipated in the September forecast. Chair Yellen argued the uptick in the rate forecasts was "tiny", but acknowledged that some participants moved their forecasts partly on the basis that fiscal policy is likely to be eased by the new Congress.
In the wake of the uptick in the March ISM manufacturing survey, we think today's official production data for the same month are likely to disappoint. Our model of the month-to-month output numbers incorporates the ISM data, but it is substantially driven by manufacturing hours worked, which fell in both February and March.
We were right about the below-consensus inflation numbers for June, but wrong about the explanation. We thought the core would be constrained by a drop in used car prices, while apparel and medical costs would rebound after their July declines.
Brazil's consumer spending data yesterday appeared downbeat. Retail sales fell 2.1% month-to-month in December, pushing the year-over-year rate down to 4.9%, from -3.8% in November. This is a poor looking headline, but volatility is normal in these data at this time of the year, and the underlying trend is improving.
The January core CPI numbers are consistent with our view that the U.S. faces bigger upside inflation risks than markets and the Fed believe.
The failure of the core CPI to mean-revert in April, after the unexpected March drop, does not mean that the Fed can relax.
In our Monitor of January 10, we argued that the market turmoil in Q4 was largely driven by the U.S.- China trade war, and that a resolution--which we expect by the spring, at the latest--would trigger a substantial easing of financial conditions.
Boeing's announcement that it will temporarily cut production of 737MAX aircraft to zero in January, from the current 42 per month pace, will depress first quarter economic growth, though not by much.
Hot on the heels of yesterday's news that the NAHB index of homebuilders' sentiment and activity dropped by two points this month -- albeit from December's 18-year high -- we expect to learn today that housing starts fell last month.
We would like to be able to argue with conviction that the surge in June housing starts and building permits represents the beginning of a renewed strong upward trend, but we think that's unlikely.
The bad economic news in Brazil is unstoppable. The mid-month CPI index rose 1.3% month-to-month in February, as education, housing, and transport prices increased. School tuition fees jumped 6% month-to-month in February, reflecting their annual adjustment, and transport costs rose by 2% due to an increase in regulated gasoline prices.
After a slew of media reports in recent days, we have to expect that the president will today announce that Fed governor Jerome Powell is his pick to replace Janet Yellen as Chair.
The recent increases in single-family housing construction are consistent with the rise in new home sales, triggered by the substantial fall in mortgage rates over the past year.
The recent jobless claims numbers have been spectacularly good, with the absolute level dropping unexpectedly in the past two weeks to a 43-year low. The four-week moving average has dropped by a hefty 14K since late August.
We have had something of a rethink about the likely timing of the coming cyclical downturn. Previously, we thought the economy would start to slow markedly in the middle of next year, with a mild recession--two quarters of modest declines in GDP-- beginning in the fourth quarter.
August inflation surprised to the downside across most of LatAm, as food price surges proved transitory, and the lagged effect of the FX depreciations last year faded. Brazil appeared to be the exception last month, but the underlying trend in inflation is downwards.
Our forecast of significantly higher core inflation over the next year has been met, it would be fair to say, with a degree of skepticism.
The Fed yesterday acknowledged clearly the new economic information of recent months, namely, that first quarter GDP growth was "solid", with Chair Powell noting that it was stronger than most forecasters expected.
The odds of a hike this month have increased in recent days, though the chance probably is not as high as the 82% implied by the fed funds future. The arguments against a March hike are that GDP growth seems likely to be very sluggish in Q1, following a sub-2% Q4, and that a hike this month would be seen as a political act.
The next couple of rounds of business surveys will capture firms' responses to the Phase One trade deal agreed last week, though the news came too late to make much, if any, difference to the December Philly Fed report, which will be released today.
A big picture approach to the China trade war, from the perspective of Mr. Trump, is reasonably positive. The president very clearly wants to be re-elected, and he knows that his chances are better if the economy and the stock market are in good shape.
The declines in headline housing starts and building permits in September don't matter; both were driven by corrections in the volatile multi-family sector.
Judging by conversations we have had with investors since October, the idea that the Fed will be willing to let inflation overshoot the 2% target for a time has become received wisdom in the markets.
Political risk in Brazil has increased substantially, following reports that President Temer was taped in an alleged cover-up scheme involving the jailed former Speaker of the House. If the tapes are verified, calls for Mr. Temer to face impeachment will mount.
Last week's unprecedented surge in initial jobless claims, to 3,283K from 282K, prompted a New York Times front page for the ages; if you haven't seen it, click here.
We don't use the index of leading economic indicators as a forecasting tool. If it leads the pace of growth at all, it's not by much, and in recent years it has proved deeply unreliable.
Today's housing market data likely will look soft, but will probably not be representative of the underlying story, which remains quite positive.
Economic data released on Friday underscored our view that bolder rate cuts in Brazil are looming. The BCB's latest BCB's inflation report, released on Thursday, showed that policymakers now see conditions in place to increase the pace of easing "moderately" .
We raised our forecast for today's January payroll number after the ADP report, to 200K from 160K.
Japanese average cash earnings posted a surprise drop of 0.4% year-over-year in June, down from 0.6% in May and sharply below the consensus for a rise of 0.5%. The decline was driven by a fall in the June bonus, by 1.5%.
Chile's growth dynamics were robust in August, according to the latest data. Production rose and consumption remained strong during most of Q3. Indeed, industrial output increased 5.1% year-over- year, up from an already strong 3.1% increase in July, and contrasting sharply with the 2% fall in Q2.
No fewer than four FOMC members will speak today, ranging from the very dovish to the pretty hawkish.
The jump in oil prices over the past two trading days eventually will lift retail gasoline prices by about 35 cents per gallon, or 131⁄2%.
The headline hourly earnings data for May were dull, showing the year-over-year rate unchanged at 2.5%. That's up from 2.1% in the year to May 2015, but it's not an alarming rate of increase. But the Atlanta Fed's median hourly earnings data, which track the wages of individuals from year-to-year, show wages up 3.4% year-over-year, the fastest rate of increase since February 2009.
In the wake of Wednesday's ADP report, showing a mere 27K increase in private payrolls, we cut our payroll forecast to 100K.
It's hard to overstate the geopolitical importance of Friday's assassination of Qassim Soleimani, architect of Iran's external military activity for more than 20 years and perhaps the most powerful man in the country, after the Supreme Leader.
Markets over-reacted to the much smaller-than-expected 0.1% increase in January hourly earnings, in our view. We don't have a full explanation for the shortfall against our 0.5% forecast, but that doesn't make it wise to throw out the baby with the bathwater, making the de facto assumption that wage growth now won't accelerate in the future.
Colombia's Central Bank is about to face a short-term dilemma. The recent fall in inflation will be interrupted while economic growth, particularly private spending, will struggle to build momentum over the second half.
If the underlying trend in payroll growth is about 200K, then a weather-depressed 98K reading needs to be followed by a rebound of about 300K in order fully to reverse the hit. But the consensus for today's April number is only 190K, and our forecast is 225K.
We had hoped that the statistical problems which have plagued the initial estimates of August payrolls in recent years had faded, but Friday's report suggests our judgement was premature.
We don't directly plug the ADP employment data into our model for the official payroll number. ADP's estimate is derived itself from a model which incorporates lagged official payroll data, because payrolls tend to mean-revert, as well as macroeconomic variables including oil prices, industrial production and jobless claims -- and actual employment data from firms which use ADP's payroll processing services.
The ADP measure of private employment hugely overstated the official measure of payrolls in September, in the wake of Hurricane Irma, but then slightly understated the October number.
October payrolls were stronger than we expected, rising 128K, despite a 46K hit from the GM strike.
One bad month proves nothing, but our first chart shows that October's auto sales numbers were awful, dropping unexpectedly to a six-month low.
The two major EZ economic reports released while we were away conformed to the consensus. Advance data suggest that real GDP in the euro area rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q3, the same pace as in Q2, and the year-over-year rate was similarly unchanged at 1.6%.
Last week's data supported our view that monetary policy across LatAm will continue to diverge in the short term. Brazil will have to prolong its monetary tightening cycle, while economies such as Colombia and Chile will remain on hold despite the recent slowdowns in their economic cycle.
We have two competing explanations for the unexpected leap in November payrolls. First, it was a fluke, so it will either be revised down substantially, or will be followed by a hefty downside correction in December.
The headline NFIB index of small business activity and sentiment in July likely will be little changed from June--we expect a half-point dip, while the consensus forecast is for a repeat of June's 94.5--but what we really care about is the capex intentions componen
Small business sentiment and activity, as reported by the NFIB survey, has recovered exactly half the drop triggered by the rollover in stock prices in the fourth quarter. This matters, because most people work at small firms, which are responsible for the vast bulk of net job growth.
The rollover in bank lending to commercial and industrial companies probably is over. On the face of it, the slowdown has been alarming, with year-over-year growth in the stock of lending slowing to just 2.6% in April, from a sustained peak of more than 10% in the early part of last year.
We expected a consensus-beating ADP employment number for February, but the 298K leap was much better than our forecast, 210K. The error now becomes an input into our payroll model, shifting our estimate for tomorrow's official number to 250K; our initial forecast was 210K.
A third wave of Covid-19 outbreaks is now underway. The first, in China, is now under control, and the rate of increase of cases in South Korea has dropped sharply. The other second wave countries, Italy and Iran, are still struggling.
Colombia's economy has continued to slow, due mainly to lagged effect of the oil price shock since mid-2014, and stubbornly high inflation, which has triggered painful monetary tightening. Modest fiscal expansion and capital inflows have helped to avoid a hard landing, but the economy is still feeling the pain of weakening domestic demand. And the twin deficits--though improving--remain a threat.
The recovery in small business sentiment since the fourth quarter rollover has been extremely modest, so far.
While we were out, Brazil's economic and political position continued to improve. The recession eased in the second quarter and into July. Industrial production, for example, increased in June for the fourth consecutive month, rising by 1.1% month-to-month.
The NFIB survey of small businesses today will show that July hiring intentions jumped by four points to +19, the highest level since November 2006. The NFIB survey has been running since 1973, and the hiring intentions index has never been sustained above 20.
If you need more evidence that the U.S. economy is bifurcating, look at the spread between the ISM non- manufacturing and manufacturing indexes, which has risen to 3.5 points, the widest gap since September 2016.
A casual glance at our char t below, which shows the number of job openings from the JOLTS report, seems to fit our story that the slowdown in payrolls in April and May--perhaps triggered by the drop in stocks in January and February--will prove temporary. Job openings dipped, but have recovered and now stand very close to their cycle high.
Our below-consensus 125K forecast for today's February payroll number is predicated on two ideas.
ADP's report of a 235K increase in private payrolls in February is not definitive evidence of anything, but it is consistent with the idea that labor demand remains very strong.
The President's threat to impose tariffs on imported Chinese consumer goods on September 1 might yet come to nothing.
While we were out, most of the core domestic economic data were quite strong, with the exception of the soft July home sales numbers and the Michigan consumer sentiment survey.
The definition of "yesbutism": Noun, meaning the practice of dismissing or seeking to diminish the importance of data on the grounds that the next iteration will tell the opposite story.
The disappearance from the FOMC statement of any reference to global risks, which first appeared back in September, was both surprising and, in the context of this cautious Fed, quite bold. After all, one bad month in global markets or a reversal of the jump in the latest Chinese PMI surveys presumably would force the Fed quickly to reinstate the global get-out clause. So, why drop it now?
We expect today's first estimate of third quarter GDP growth to show that the economy expanded at a 2.4% annualized rate over the summer.
Mexico's inflation has started to edge higher due mainly to an unfavorable base effect and pressures on food prices. The bi-weekly headline CPI for the first half of February edged up to 2.9% year-over-year and up from 2.7% in January and the record low of 2.3% in December.
The third estimate of first quarter GDP growth, due today, will not be the final word on the subject. Indeed, there never will be a final word, because the numbers are revised indefinitely into the future.
Small businesses remain extremely positive about the economy, but some of the post-election gloss appears to be wearing off. To be clear, the headline composite index of small business sentiment and activity in February, due this morning, will be much higher than immediately before the election, but a modest correction seems likely after January's 12- year high.
While businesses--and farmers--fret over the damage already wrought by the trade war with China and the further pain to come, consumers are remarkably happy.
We have argued for some time that the revival in nonoil capex represents clear upside risk for GDP growth next year, but it's now time to make this our base case.
It has been difficult to be an optimist about U.S. international trade performance in recent years. The year-over-year growth rate of real exports of goods and services hasn't breached 2% in a single quarter for two years.
The core economic narrative in U.S. markets right now seems to run something like this: The pace of growth slowed in Q1, depressing the rate of payroll growth in the spring. As a result, the headline plunge in the unemployment rate is unlikely to persist and, even if it does, the wage pressures aren't a threat to the inflation outlook.
Colombia's economy activity is deteriorating rapidly, suggesting that BanRep will have to cut interest rates on Friday. Incoming data make it clear that the economy has moved into a period of deceleration, painting a starkly different picture than a year ago.
When Fed Chair Powell said last week that the "surprise" weakness in the official retail sales numbers is "inconsistent with a significant amount of other data", we're guessing that he had in mind a couple of reports which will be updated today.
Mexico's National Institute of Statistics--INEGI-- will release preliminary GDP data for Q1 on Friday. We are expecting good news, despite the tough external and domestic environment. According to the economic activity index--a monthly proxy for GDP-- growth gained further momentum in Q1, based on data up to February.
Economic activity in Mexico during the past few months has been relatively resilient, as external and domestic threats appear to have diminished.
This week's Mexican retail sales report for February offered more support to our view that domestic conditions improved at the end of Q1.
The Redbook chainstore sales survey today is likely to give the superficial impression that the peak holiday shopping season got off to a robust start last week.
The data in LatAm have been all over the map in recent weeks. Brazil's cyclical stabilization continues, while Mexican numbers confirm that the economy has come under pressure in recent months.
Banxico's quarterly inflation report, released last week, underscored concerns over growth as well as the weakness of the MXN and the risks p osed by the Fed's imminent tightening. Policymakers downgraded Mexico's GDP forecast for 2017 to 2.3-to-3.3% year-over-year, from 2.5-to-3.5%. Weaker-than-expected U.S. manufacturing activity is behind the downshift.
The FOMC has gone all-in, more or less, on the idea that the headwinds facing the economy mean that the hiking cycle is over.
The Fed is in a double bind.
Brazil is now paying the price of President Rousseff's first term, which was characterized by unaffordable expansionary policies. As a result, inflation is now trending higher, forcing the BCB to tighten at a more aggressive pace than initially intended--or expected by investors--depressing business and investment confidence.
For analysts with a broadly positive view of the U.S. economy, it is tempting to argue that the slowdown in payroll growth this year reflects supply constraints, as the pool of qualified labor dries up.
Investors focussed last week on Chair Powell's semi-annual Monetary Policy Testimony, but he said nothing much new.
The biggest single surprise in the second quarter GDP report was the unexpected $28B real-terms drop in inventories.
Today's FOMC meeting will be the first non-forecast meeting to be followed by a press conference.
Industrial companies in the Eurozone are still struggling with low growth, but the outlook is stabilising following the near-recession late last year. The Eurozone manufacturing PMI was unchanged at 51.0 in February, trivially lower than the initial estimate of 51.1.
The next nine weeks bring three jobs reports, which will determine whether the Fed hikes again in September, as we expect, and will also help shape market expectations for December and beyond.
Speeches by Chair Yellen and Vice-Chair Fischer give the two most important Fed officials the perfect platform today to signal to markets whether rates will rise this month.
The Fed likely will do nothing today, both in terms of interest rates and substantive changes to the statement. We'd be very surprised to hear anything new on the Fed's plans for its balance sheet.
The 0.18% increase in the core PCE deflator in December was at the lower end of the range implied by the core CPI. It left the year-over-year rate at just 1.5%.
The Fed left rates on hold yesterday, as expected, repeating its long-held core view that inflation will rise to 2% in the medium-term, requiring gradual increases in the fed funds rate.
Recent consumer confidence numbers have been strong enough that we don't need to see any further increase. The expectations components of both the Michigan and Conference Board surveys are consistent with real spending growth of 21⁄2-to- 3%, which is about the best we can expect when real income growth, after tax, is trending at about 21⁄2%.
Core PPI inflation has risen relentlessly, though not rapidly, over the past two-and-a-half years.
We're expecting a hefty increase in February payrolls today, but even a surprise weak number likely wouldn't prevent a rate hike next week. The trends in all the private sector employment surveys are strong and improving, and jobless claims have dropped to new lows too, though we think that's probably less important than it appears.
The collapse in oil prices was the immediate trigger for the 7.6% plunge in the S&P 500 yesterday, but the underlying reason is the Covid-19 epidemic.
The latest batch of FOMC speakers yesterday, together with the December minutes--participants said "the committee could afford to be patient about further policy firming"--offered nothing to challenge the idea, now firmly embedded in markets, that the next rate hike will come no sooner than June, if it comes at all.
For some time now we have argued that collapse in capital spending in the oil sector was the source of most of the softening of activity in the manufacturing and wholesaling sectors last year.
The CBO reckons that the April budget surplus jumped to about $179B, some $72B more than in the same month last year. This looks great, but alas all the apparent improvement reflects calendar distortions on the spending side of the accounts.
Nowhere is the gap between sentiment and activity wider than in the NFIB survey of small businesses. The economic expectations component leaped by an astonishing 57 points between October and December, but the capex intentions index rose by only two points over the same period, and it has since slipped back. In February, the capex intentions index stood at 26, compared to an average of 27.3 in the three months to October.
First things first: Payroll growth likely will be sustained at or close to November's pace.
We see clear upside risk to the inflation data due before the FOMC announcement, from three main sources.
Today's March CPI ought to provide further support for the idea that the trend rate of increase in the core index is running at about 0.2% per month, an annualized rate, if sustained, of about 2.5%.
The reported 225K jump in payrolls in January was even bigger than we expected, but it is not sustainable. The extraordinarily warm weather last month most obviously boosted job gains in construction, where the 44K increase was the biggest in a year
The monthly survey of small businesses conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business is quite sensitive to short-term movements in the stock market, so we're expecting an increase in the November reading, due today.
A quick rebound in growth, after the slowdown to a reported 2.6% in the fourth quarter, is unlikely.
Mexico's central bank, Banxico, capitulated to the sharp MXN depreciation yesterday and increased interest rates by 50bp, for the second time this year, in a bid to support the currency. Raising rates to 4.25% was a brave step, as the economic recovery remains sluggish, thanks mostly to external headwinds. The hike demonstrates that policymakers are extremely worried about the decline in the MXN and its lagged effect on inflation.
We have few doubts that labor demand remained strong in January, but the chance of a repeat of December's 312K payroll gain is slim.
The BCB's Copom kept Brazil's Selic rate at 14.25% this week, as expected. The brief accompanying communiqué was very similar to the January statement, saying that after assessing the outlook for growth and inflation, and "the current balance of risks, considering domestic and, mainly, external uncertainties", the Copom decided to keep the Selic rate at a nine-year high, without bias.
The BLS offered no estimate of the impact on payrolls of the snowstorm which hit the Northeast during the March survey week, but it appears to have been substantial. All the leading indicators pointed to a solid 200K-plus reading, more than double the official initial estimate, 98K.
It's probably too soon to expect to see a meaningful reaction in the NFIB small business survey to the drop in stock prices, but it likely is coming, and a hit in today's March report can't be ruled out entirely.
Brazil's retail sales ended the second quarter on a less-bad footing. Sales volumes increased 0.1% month-to-month in June, pushing the year-over-year rate up to -5.3%, from -9.0% in May. Smoothed year-over-year growth in retail sales has improved to -7% from its cyclical trough of around -9% in the end of last year.
The continued modest rate of increase in unit labor costs makes it hard to worry much about the near-term outlook for core inflation.
The first of this week's two July inflation reports, the PPI, will be released today. With energy prices dipping slightly between the June and July survey dates, the headline should undercut the 0.2% increase we expect for the core by a tenth or so.
Japan's Q3 real GDP growth was revised up substantially to 0.6% quarter-on-quarter in the final read, compared with 0.3% in the preliminary report.
The medium-term trend in the volume of mortgage applications turned up in early 2015, but progress has not been smooth. The trend in the MBA's purchase applications index has risen by about 40% from its late 2014 low, but the increase has been characterized by short bursts of rapid gains followed by periods of stability.
Evidence that Brazil's consumption recession has hit bottom seemed to vanish yesterday with the May retail sales report. Sales plunged 1.0% month-to-month, pushing the year-over-rate down to a terrible-looking -9.0%, from a revised -6.9% in April. Adding insult to injury, the month-to-month number for April was revised down by 0.2 percentage points.
The underlying trend in the core CPI is rising by just under 0.2% per month, so that has to be the starting point for our January forecast.
A reader pointed out Friday that the standard measurement of the impact of the weather on January payrolls--the number of people unable to work due to the weather, less the long-term average--likely overstated the boost from the extremely mild temperatures.
The 0.1% dip in the core CPI in March was the first outright decline in three years, but we expect another-- and bigger--decline in today's April numbers.
The Fed rate hike on Wednesday is fully priced in to LatAm markets, so we expect no significant immediate reaction when the trigger is pulled. But as markets gradually come around to our view that future U.S. rate risk is to the upside, markets will come under renewed pressure.
Today's February CPI report is very unlikely to repeat January's surprise, when the core index was reported up 0.3%, a tenth more than expected.
The 0.242% increase in the January core CPI left the year-over-year rate at 2.3% for the third straight month.
In the olden days, by which we mean the 15 years or so leading up to the financial crisis, a 100bp rise in long yields would be enough to slow GDP growth by about three percentage points, other things equal, after a lag of about one year.
Banxico decided unanimously to hold its benchmark interest rate at 7.0% at last Thursday's policy meeting.
Chair Yellen has become quite good at not giving much away at her semi-annual Monetary Policy Testimony.
The Mexican government last week unveiled its 2017 fiscal budget proposal. The plan makes clear that the shocks which have battered the economy and public finances since 2015 will linger in to next year. Mexico's government has been eager to cut spending in recent years.
At least some investors clearly were expecting Fed Chair Powell yesterday to offer a degree of resistance to the idea that a rate cut at the end o f this month is a done deal.
Chair Powell broke no new ground in his semi-annual Monetary Policy Testimony yesterday, repeating the Fed's new core view that the current stance of policy is "appropriate".
A huge wave of data will break over markets this week, along with the FOMC meeting, new dot plots and Chair Yellen's press conference. But today is calm, with no significant data releases and no Fed speeches; policymakers are in purdah ahead of the meeting.
Today's JOLTS survey covers August, which seems like a long time ago. But the report is worth your attention nonetheless.
The 20K increase in February payrolls is not remotely indicative of the underlying trend, and we see no reason to expect similar numbers over the next few months.
It appears to be something of an article of faith among economic advisors to President-elect Trump that substantial fiscal stimulus will generate faster growth without boosting inflation, because both labor participation and productivity growth will rise.
If you had only the NFIB survey of small businesses as your guide to the state of the business sector, you'd be blissfully unaware that the economic commentariat right now is obsessed with the potential hit from the trade tariffs, actual and threatened.
The FOMC did mostly what was expected yesterday, though we were a bit surprised that the single rate hike previously expected for next year has been abandoned.
The month-to-month core CPI numbers in March were consistent, in aggregate, with the underlying trend.
The Fed's action, statement, and forecasts, and Chair Yellen's press conference, made it very clear the Fed is torn between the dovish signals from the recent core inflation data, and the much more hawkish message coming from the rapid decline in the unemployment rate.
We expect the Fed to drop "patient" from its post-meeting statement today, paving the way for a rate hike in June, data permitting. And the data will permit, in our view, despite what seems to have been a long run of disappointing numbers, and the likelihood that inflation will fall further below the Fed's 2% informal target in the near-term.
Fed Chair Yellen speaks to the Economics Club of Washington, D.C., at 12.25 Eastern today, a day before she appears before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress at 10.00 Eastern. These will be her last public utterances before the FOMC meeting on December 16. Dr. Yellen won't say anything which could be interpreted as seeking to front-run the outcome of the meeting; that's not her style. But we expect her clearly to repeat that the Fed's decision will depend on whether progress has been made since October towards the Fed's twin objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation.
Normal service appears to have resumed in August, with payrolls rising by 201K, very close to the 196K average over the previous year.
The high and rising proportion of small businesses reporting difficulty in filling job openings is perhaps the biggest reason to worry that the pace of wage increases could accelerate quickly. If they pick up too far, the Fed's intention to raise rates at a "gradual" pace will be upended. The NFIB survey of small businesses--mostly very small--shows employers are having as much trouble recruiting staff as at the peak of the boom in 2006.
Senior International Economist Andres Abadia on Chile's jobless rate
Strong fundamentals have supported private consumption in Mexico recently, but we now expect a slowdown. Spending will not collapse, though, because consumer credit growth, formal employment, real wage income and remittances will continue to underpin consumption for the next three-to-six months.
We expected a modest correction in the number of job openings in July, following the surge over the previous few months, but instead yesterday's JOLTS report revealed that openings jumped by a mind-boggling 8.1% to a new record high. In the three months to July, the number of openings soared at a 35% annualized rate. As a result, the Beveridge Curve, which compares the number of openings to the unemployment rate, is now further than ever from normalizing after shifting out decisively in 2010.
First, a deep breath: June payrolls, with a margin of error of +/-107K, missed the consensus by 10K. Adding in the -60K revisions and the miss is still statistically insignificant. The story, therefore, is that there is no story. Even relative to our more bullish forecast, the miss was just 37K. Nothing bad happened in June. But we hav e to acknowledge that payroll growth has now undershot the pace implied by the NFIB's hiring intentions number--lagged by five months--in each of the past four months. In June, the survey pointed to a 320K jump in private employment, overshooting the actual print by nearly 100K.
The May employment report was somewhat overshadowed by the furor over the president's tweet, at 7.15AM, hinting--more than hinting--that the numbers would be good.
We expect to see a 180K increase in November payrolls
The Brazilian labour market is slowly healing following the severe recession of 2015-16. The latest employment data, released last week, showed that the economy added 35K net jobs in August, compared to a 34K loss in August 2016.
The ADP report yesterday has not changed our view that tomorrow's payroll number will be about 180K, well below our estimate of the underlying trend, which is about 250K. ADP's numbers are heavily influenced by the BLS data for the prior month, and tell us little or nothing about the next official report.
The flat trend in core capital goods orders continued through May, according to yesterday's durable goods orders report. We are not surprised.
Mexico's data over the last few weeks have confirmed our view that private consumption remains the key driver of the current economic cycle. Solid economic fundamentals, thanks to stimulative monetary policy and structural reforms, have supported the domestic economy in recent quarters. Falling inflation has also been a key driver, slowing to 2.5% by mid-September, a record low, from an average of 4% during 2014.
We argued in the Monitor yesterday that the very low and declining level of jobless claims is a good indicator that businesses were not much bothered by the slowdown in the pace of economic growth in the first quarter. The numbers also help illustrate another key point when thinking about the current state of the economy and, in particular, the rollover in the oil business.
Just how weak would the manufacturing sector have to be in order to persuade the Fed to hold fire this fall, assuming the labor market numbers continue to improve steadily? The question is germane in the wake of the startlingly terrible August Empire State manufacturing survey, which suggested that conditions for manufacturers in New York are deteriorating at the fastest rate since June 2009.
Data this week confirmed that private spending in Colombia stumbled in June. Retail sales fell 0.7% year-over-year, from an already poor -0.4% in May. The underlying trend is negative, following two consecutive declines, for the first time since late 2009. Domestic demand remains subdued as consumers are scaling back spending due to weaker real incomes, lower confidence and tighter credit and labor market conditions.
For the record, we think the Fed should raise rates in December, given the long lags in monetary policy and the clear strength in the economy, especially the labor market, evident in the pre-hurricane data.
Fed Chair Yellen said nothing very new in the core of her Monetary Policy Testimony yesterday, repeating her view that rates likely will have to rise this year but policy will remain accommodative, and that the labor market is less tight than the headline unemployment rate suggests. The upturn in wage growth remains "tentative", in her view, making the next two payroll reports before the September FOMC meeting key to whether the Fed moves then.
The April FOMC minutes don't mince words: "Most participants judged that if incoming data were consistent with economic growth picking up in the second quarter, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation making progress toward the Committee's 2 percent objective, then it likely would be appropriate for the Committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June".
The FOMC delivered no great surprises in the statement yesterday, but the new forecasts of both interest rates and inflation were, in our view, startlingly low. The stage is now set for an eventful few months as the tightening labor market and rising inflation force markets and policymakers to ramp up their expectations for interest rates.
The Fed's insistence this week that U.S. rates will rise only twice more this year helped to ease pressures on LatAm markets this week, particularly FX. The way is now clear for some LatAm central banks to cut interest rates rapidly over the coming months, even before U.S. fiscal and trade policy becomes clear. We expect the next Fed rate hike to come in June, as the labor market continues to tighten. If we're right, the free-risk window for LatAm rate cuts is relatively short.
We have been hearing a good deal recently about the risk that the plunge in headline inflation will feed back into the labor market, keeping the pace of wage gains lower than they would otherwise have been and, therefore, slowing the pace of Fed tightening.
Just as we turned more positive on the labor market, following three straight months of payroll gains outstripping the message from an array of surveys, the Labor Department's JOLTS report shows that the number of job openings plunged in November.
If the only things that mattered for the housing markets were the obvious factors--the strength of the labor market, and low mortgage rates--the sector would be booming. Activity is picking up, with new and existing home sales up by 23% and 9% year-over-year respectively in the three months to May, but the level of transactions volumes remains hugely depressed. At the peak, new home sales were sustained at an annualized rate of about 1½M, but May sales stood at only 546K. Adjusting for population growth, the long-run data suggests sales ought to be running at close to 1M.
This is the final U.S. Economic Monitor of 2017, a year which has seen the economy strengthen, the labor market tighten substantially, and the Fed raise rates three times, with zero deleterious effect on growth.
The markets' favorite story of the moment, aside from the Fed, seems to be the idea that overstretched corporate finances are an accident waiting to happen. When the crunch comes, the unavoidable hit to the stock market and the corporate bond market will have dire consequences, limiting the Fed's scope to raise rates, regardless of what might be happening in the labor market. We don't buy this. At least, we don't buy the second part of the narrative; we have no problem with the idea the finances of the corporate sector are shaky.
This could have been a momentous week, but now it very likely will be just another week with another Fed meeting where rates are left on hold. Our call has very little to do with the underlying state of the economy, which we think can cope with higher rates, and needs them, given the tightness of the labor market. Instead, the story is all about the perceptions--misplaced, in our view--of both the Fed and the markets.
If recent labor market trends continue, the four employment reports which will be released before the June FOMC meeting will show the economy creating about 1.1M jobs, pushing the unemployment rate down to 5.3%, almost at the bottom of the Fed's estimated Nairu range, 5.2-to-5.5%.
FOMC pronouncements are rarely unambiguous; policymakers like to leave themselves room for maneuver. But when the statement says that "Most judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point" and that only "some" further improvement in labor market conditions is required to trigger action, it makes sense to look through the blizzard of caveats and objections--none of which were new--from the perma-doves.
For the record, we think the Fed should raise rates in December, given the long lags in monetary policy and the clear strength in the economy, especially the labor market, evident in the pre-hurricane data.
To the extent that markets bother with the NFIB survey at all, most of the attention falls on the labor market numbers. But these data--hiring, compensation, jobs hard-to-fill--haven't changed much in recent months, and in any event most of them are released the week before the main survey, which appeared yesterday. The message from the labor data is unambiguous: Hiring remains very strong, employers are finding it very difficult to fill open positions, and compensation costs are accelerating.
Growth Has Peaked as the Tax Cut Boost Fades...But the Labor Market is Keeping the Fed on Track
The headline number in today's NFIB survey of small businesses probably will look soft. The index is sensitive to the swings in the stock market and we'd be surprised to see no response to the volatility of recent weeks. We also know already that the hiring intentions number dropped by four points, reversing December's gain, because the key labor market numbers are released in advance, the day before the official payroll report.
Q1 Growth Is Unsustainable...But The Labor Market Will Continue To Tighten
With today's jobs report confirming a strong labor market recovery, it's time to turn our attention back to the Fed
Recent economic weakness in Brazil, particularly in the labor market, has strengthened our view that the central bank is close to the end of its painful, but necessary, tightening cycle. We expect the BCB to increase its policy rate by 50bp to 14.25% at next week's monetary policy meeting, and then leave the rate on hold for the foreseeable future.
The Fed Is All-In On The Slowdown Story...But They're Playing With Fire In The Labor Market
...The Fed told investors that it now requires only "some further improvement" in labor market conditions before starting to raise rates-- the "some" is new--but did not set out any specific conditions. With the unemployment rate now just a tenth above the top of the Fed's Nairu range, 5.0-to-5.2%, and very likely to dip into it by the time of the decision on September 17, while payroll growth is trending solidly above 200K per month, rates already would have been raised some time ago in previous cycles.
The Tightening Labor Market is all that Matters...Expect the Fed to Hike at Each Quarter-End
Our argument that rates could rise as soon as March has always been contingent on two factors, namely, robust labor market data and a degree of clarity on the extent of fiscal easing likely to emerge from Congress. On the first of these issues, the latest evidence is mixed.
The leading wage indicators in the December NFIB survey, released in full yesterday--some of the labor market components appears a few days in advance, ahead of the official payroll report--all point to a substantial acceleration over the next six-to-nine months. Our first two charts show the NFIB jobs-hard-to-fill number and expected compensation numbers, respectively, compared to the rate of growth of hourly earnings. The message is extremely clear.
China's 1.8% downshift in the RMB/dollar reference rate will make only a microscopic difference to the pace of U.S. economic growth and inflation. It will not deter the Fed from raising rates if the domestic labor market continues to tighten, as all the data suggest. The drop in the RMB merely restores the nominal exchange rate to its fall 2012 level, since which time the real exchange rate has risen by some 20%, according to the BIS.
The single most startling development in the labor market data in recent months is acceleration in labor force growth. The participation rate has risen only marginally, because employment has continued to climb too, but the absolute size of the labor force is now expanding at its fastest pace in nine years, up 1.9% in the year to September.
The key labor market numbers from today's February NFIB report on small businesses--hiring intentions and the proportion of firms with unfilled job openings--were released last week, as usual, ahead of the official jobs report.
Back in April 2012, Janet Yellen--then Fed Vice-Chair--spoke in detail about the labor market and monetary policy. The key point of her labor market analysis was that it was impossible to know for sure how much of the increase in unemployment--at the time, the headline rate was 8.2%--was structural, and how much was cyclical.
Under normal circumstances, we can predict movements in the headline NFIB index from shifts in the key labor market components, which are released a day ahead of the official employment report, and, hence, about 10 days before the full NFIB survey appears.
It's always easy to find reasons to doubt single monthly observations of any economic time series, but our first chart makes it very clear that the labor market has strengthened markedly over the past few months. The underlying trend rate of growth in private payrolls is now above 300K for the first time in exactly 20 years, and we seen no reason to expect much change over the next few months.
The release of the NFIB survey at 6.00AM eastern time this morning--really, they need a new PR advisor--doubtless will bring a flurry of headlines about rising wage pressures, with the expected compensation index rising by a startling three points to a new post-crash high. But this is not news, nor is the high, stable level of hiring intentions; these key labor market numbers were released last week in the NFIB Jobs Report, which appears the day before the official employment report. The data are simply extracted from the main NFIB survey.
We're hearing a good deal of speculation about the dotplot after next week's FOMC meeting, with investors wondering whether the median dot will rise in anticipation of the increased inflation threat posed by substantial fiscal loosening under the new administration. We suspect not, though for the record we think that higher rate forecasts could easily be justified simply by the tightening of the labor market even before any stimulus is implemented.
Household sentiment in Mexico continues to improve, consistent with tailwinds from low inflation, accommodative monetary policy, and the improving labor market. The consumers confidence index rose to 94.7 in June from 92.0 in May, with four of the five components improving, especially big-ticket purchasing expectations and expectations for the economy.
This is the final Monitor before we hit the beach for two weeks, so want to highlight some of the key data and event risks while we're out. First, we're expecting little more from the FOMC statement than an acknowledgment that the labor market data improved in June. After the May jobs report, the FOMC remarked that "...the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed".
The flow of data pointing to strength in the labor market has continued this week, on the heels of last week's report of a 250K jump in October payrolls.
We're guessing Fed Chair Yellen would have preferred to have another acceleration in hourly earnings and a dip in the unemployment rate along side the hefty 211K leap in November payrolls, but no matter. At its October meeting, the Fed wanted to see "some further improvement in the labor market", and by any reasonable standard a 509K total increase in payrolls in two months fits the bill.
Mexico's economy is not accelerating, but it is holding up well in extremely difficult circumstances for EM. Growth is reasonably healthy, inflation is under control and the labor market is resilient. In short, Mexico is a success story, given the backdrop of plunging oil prices. The contrast with the disaster in Brazil is stark. Last week's survey and hard data continued to tell an upbeat story on Mexico's economy. The IMEF manufacturing index, Mexico's PMI, rose to 52.1 in November up from 51.6 in October, lifted mainly by gains in the employment and deliveries indexes.
We argued in the Monitor yesterday that the NFIB survey's hiring intentions number is the best guide to the trend in payroll growth a few months ahead. But today's November NFIB report will bring no new information on job growth because the key labor market elements of the survey have already been released.
We just can't get away from the deeply vexed question of wages; specifically, why the rate of growth of nominal hourly earnings has risen only to just over 2.5%, even though the historical relationship between wage gains and the tightness of the labor market points to increases of 4%-plus.
In one line: Rising stock prices lift small business sentiment; labor market still tight.
In one line: Pre-virus, the labor market was strong, if weather-assisted. Now, trouble is coming, fast.
In one line: The labor market is gradually deteriorating.
In one line: The slow recovery of the Brazilian labor market continues.
At a stroke, the October payroll report returned the short-term trend in payroll growth to the range in place since 2011, pushed the unemployment rate into the lower part of the Fed's Nairu range, and lifted the year-over-year rate of growth of hourly earnings to a six-year high. The FOMC has never quantitatively defined what it means by "some further improvement in the labor market", its condition for increasing rates, but if the October report does not qualify, it's hard to know what might fit the bill. We expect a 25bp increase in December.
The FOMC minutes showed both sides of the hike debate are digging in their heels. As the doves are a majority--rates haven't been hiked--the tone of the minutes is, well, a bit do vish. But don't let that detract from the key point that, "Most participants continued to anticipate that, based on their assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation, the conditions for policy firming had been met or would likely be met by the end of the year." Confidence in this view has diminished among "some" participants, however, worried about the impact of the strong dollar, falling stock prices and weaker growth in China on U.S. net exports and inflation.
Mexico's latest hard data suggest things might not be as bad as we feared. Retail sales and manufacturing output were relatively strong at the end of last year, the Q4 preliminary GDP report was mostly upbeat, and the labor market was firing on all cylinders.
In the absence of market-moving data today, we want to take a closer look at the labor market, and, specifically, the idea that payroll growth is slowing because firms cannot find staff they consider suitably qualified for the jobs available. Every indicator of labor demand, with the sole exception of manufacturing-specific surveys, is consistent with very rapid payroll growth, well in excess of 200K per month.
The news that the seasonal adjustments in the GDP numbers are even less reliable than previously thought means the Fed likely will put even greater emphasis on the labor market when pondering when to begin raising rates. A cost-push view of the inflation process necessarily centers on the labor data, but every FOMC statement begins with an assessment of the overall pace of growth.
After a busy week of data, and a holiday weekend ahead, it's worth stepping back a bit and evaluating the arguments over the timing of the next Fed hike. The first question, though, is whether the data will support action, on the Fed's own terms. The April FOMC minutes said: "Most participants judged that if incoming data were consistent with economic growth picking up in the second quarter, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation making progress toward the Committee's 2 percent objective, then it likely would be appropriate for the Committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June".
Fed Chair Yellen yesterday reinforced the impression that the bar to Fed action in December, in terms of the next couple of employment reports, is now quite low: "If we were to move, say in December, it would be based on an expectation, which I believe is justified, [our italics] that with an improving labor market and transitory factors fading, that inflation will move up to 2%." The economy is now "performing well... Domestic spending has been growing at a solid pace" making a December hike a "live possibility." New York Fed president Bill Dudley, speaking later, said he "fully" agrees with Dr. Yellen's position, but "let's see what the data show."
This week is, potentially, hugely important in determining the Fed's near-term view of the real state of the labor market and its approach to monetary policy over the next few months. The key event is the release of the fourth quarter employment cost index, which could make a material difference to perceptions of the degree of wage pressure.
We are fundamentally quite bullish on the housing market, given the 100bp drop in mortgage rates over the past six months and the continued strength of the labor market, but today's May new home sales report likely will be unexciting.
Fed Chair Yellen set out a robust and detailed defense of the orthodox approach to monetary policy in her speech in Amherst, MA, yesterday afternoon. Her core argument could have come straight from the textbook: As the labor market tightens, cost pressures will build. Monetary policy operates with a "substantial" lag, so waiting too long is dangerous; the "...prudent strategy is to begin tightening in a timely fashion and at a gradual pace".
The Fed left in place the three key elements of its statement yesterday, repeating that the extent of labor market under-utilization is "diminishing"; that the inflation drop as a result of falling oil prices will be "transitory" and that the Fed can be "patient" before starting to raise rates.
It's hard to imagine that Fed Vice-Chair Dudley would choose to say yesterday that he finds the case for a September rate hike "less compelling than it was a few weeks ago" without having had a chat beforehand with Chair Yellen. Mr. Dudley pointed out that the case "could become more compelling by the time of the meeting", depending on the data and the markets, but he also argued that developments in markets and overseas economies can "impinge" on the U.S., and that there "...still appears to be excess slack in the labor market". These ideas, especially on the labor market but also on the impact of events overseas, are not shared by the hawks, but we can't imagine Mr. Dudley disagreeing in public with Dr. Yellen. We have to assume these are her views too.
Another month, another bleak Brazilian labor market report. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased marginally to 8.3% in December, up from 8.2% in November, much worse than the 5.1% recorded in December 2014.
Fed Chair Powell yesterday said about as little as he could without appearing to ignore the turmoil in markets since the President announced his intention to apply tariffs to imports from Mexico: "We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near our symmetric 2 percent objective."
To be clear, the 2.9% year-over-year increase in headline hourly earnings in January does not restore the prior relationship between the rate of growth of nominal wages and measures of labor market tightness.
The Brazilian economy has been recovering at a decent pace in recent months. The labor market is on the mend, with the unemploymen t rate falling rapidly to 12.5% in August from 14% at the end of Q1.
The Fed yesterday toned down its warnings on the potential impact on the U.S. of "global economic and financial developments", and upgraded its view on the domestic economy, pointing out that consumption and fixed investment "have been increasing at solid rates in recent months". In September, they were merely growing "moderately". Policymakers are still "monitoring" global and market developments, but the urgency and fear of September has gone. The statement acknowledged the slower payroll gains of recent months--without offering an explanation--but pointed out, as usual, that "underutilization of labor resources has diminished since early this year" and that it will be appropriate to begin raising rates "some further improvement in the labor market".
Barely a day passes now without an email asking about "evidence" that the U.S. economy is slowing or even heading into recession. The usual factors cited are the elevated headline inventory-to-sales ratio, weak manufacturing activity, slowing earnings growth and the hit from weaker growth in China. We addressed these specific issues in the Monitor last week, on the 23rd--you can download it from our website--but the alternative approach to the end-of-the-world-is-nigh view is via the labor market.
The downturn in LatAm is finally bottoming out, but the economy of the region as a whole will not return to positive year-over-year economic growth until next year. The domestic side of the region's economy is improving, at the margin, thanks mainly to the improving inflation picture, and relatively healthy labor markets.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, discusses the outlook for U.S. inflation and labor market with Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal and Julia Chatterley on "What'd You Miss?"
Chief U.S. Economist Ian Shepherdson on U.S. Unemployment
Chief US economist Ian Shepherdson on the latest Jobs report
With the Mexican Elections on July 1st, our Chief Latam Economist Andres Abadia has received many questions about the possible outcomes and how this will affect the Mexican economy going forward.
Chief U.S. Economist Ian Shepherdson on the record-breaking number of U.S. Unemployment Claims this week
Chief US economist Ian Shepherdson on the latest Jobs report
Chief US economist Ian Shepherdson on the latest Jobs report
Ian Shepherdson's mission is to present complex economic ideas in a clear, understandable and actionable manner to financial market professionals. He has worked in and around financial markets for more than 20 years, developing a strong sense for what is important to investors, traders, salespeople and risk managers.
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