Good News from the Jobs Report

by Bob Stein

Private-sector payrolls rebounded sharply in today’s report, rising 203,000 including upward revisions to May and June. Part of the rebound is due to the auto sector, with jobs at automakers and parts sellers increasing 17,000 in July. Hiring was solid elsewhere in the manufacturing sector, as well as at retailers and private health companies. In the past year, private payrolls have increased 150,000 per month. We think this trend will accelerate in the second half as the economy recovers from Japan-related disruptions. Another strong part of today’s report was that average hourly wages increased 0.4 percent in July and are up at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the past three months.

Some short-sellers may focus on the fact that payrolls declined 1.23 million when not seasonally adjusted. But that’s a highly misleading number. The drop is almost all due to public-school teachers, which fell 1.26 million. Not seasonally adjusted private-sector payrolls fell only 4,000, which for July is stronger than in nine of the past eleven years. The only legitimately negative part of today’s report was that household employment, an alternative measure of jobs, declined 38,000 and is up only 63,000 per month in the past year. Usually this measure of jobs leads payrolls in recoveries. It may be lagging this time as smaller firms are more likely to remain credit-constrained than their larger counterparts.

In other recent news, new claims for unemployment benefits dipped 1,000 last week to 400,000. The four-week moving average fell to 408,000 versus 440,000 in May. Continuing claims for regular state benefits increased 10,000 to 3.73 million.

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