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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Employment Situation Preview

by Calculated Risk on 7/05/2012 01:10:00 PM

With only 77,000 payroll jobs added in April, and just 69,000 in May - and evidence that the economy slowed further in June - the June employment report to be released tomorrow is especially important. Another weak report, combined with sluggish Q2 GDP numbers to be released later this month, would increase the likelihood of QE3 being announced on August 1st.

However the weak payroll numbers for the last two months might have been "payback" for the mild weather in January and February. And not all is bleak. Vehicle sales were solid in June, and the sluggish recovery in housing is ongoing.

Bloomberg is showing the consensus is for an increase of 90,000 payroll jobs in June, and for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 8.2%.

Here is a summary of recent data:

• The ADP employment report showed an increase of 176,000 private sector payroll jobs in June. This would seem to suggest that the consensus for the increase in total payroll employment is too low, although the ADP report hasn't been very useful in predicting the BLS report for any one month. Also, ADP doesn't include government payrolls, and government payrolls have been shrinking for some time.

• The ISM manufacturing employment index decreased slightly in June to 56.6%, down from 56.9% in May. A historical correlation between the ISM index and the BLS employment report for manufacturing, suggests that private sector BLS reported payroll jobs for manufacturing increased about 16,000 in June.

The ISM service employment index increased in June to 52.3%, up from 50.8% in May. Based on a historical correlation between the ISM non-manufacturing employment index and the BLS employment report for service, this reading suggests the gain of around 120,000 private payroll jobs for services in June.

Combined the ISM surveys suggest an employment report above the consensus.

Initial weekly unemployment claims averaged about 385,000 in June, up slightly from the 380,000 average for April and May. This was the highest average this year, and about the same level as in November and December of last year when the economy added 190,000 jobs per month.

For the BLS reference week (includes the 12th of the month), initial claims were at 392,000; the highest this year.

• The final June Reuters / University of Michigan consumer sentiment index declined to 73.2, down from the May reading of 79.3. This is frequently coincident with changes in the labor market, but also strongly related to gasoline prices and other factors. Gasoline prices have been falling, so this decline suggests a weaker labor market.

• The small business index from Intuit showed 70,000 payroll jobs added, up from 40,000 in May.

• And on the unemployment rate from Gallup: U.S. Unadjusted Unemployment Unchanged in June

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, was 8.0% in June, unchanged from May, but significantly better than the 8.7% from a year ago. Gallup's seasonally adjusted number, based on applying an estimate of the government's June adjustment, is 7.8%, an improvement from 8.3% in May, and down considerably from 8.5% in June 2011. Both the unadjusted and the adjusted numbers are at least tied for the lowest Gallup has recorded since it began collecting employment data in 2010.
Note: Gallup only recently has been providing a seasonally adjusted estimate for the unemployment rate, so use with caution (Gallup provides some caveats). Note: So far the Gallup numbers haven't been useful in predicting the BLS unemployment rate.

• Conclusion: The overall feeling is that the economy weakened further in June, and that would seem to suggest another weak employment report this month. However, if the "payback" is over (as several analysts have argued), the number of payroll jobs could be better than the last couple of months.

Recently I've taken the "under" on the employment report, but looking at these data points surprised me a little. The combined ISM reports suggest a number in the 130,000+ range, and the ADP report (private only), suggest the consensus is too low. And the Intuit numbers improved sharply. Note: The ISM survey is conducted all month, with most respondents replying at the end of the month - so the timing doesn't line up with the BLS reference week.

On the negative side, weekly claims increased in June to the highest level this year, and consumer sentiment declined - even with falling gasoline prices.

There always seems to be some randomness to the employment report, but this month I'll take the over (over 90,000 payroll jobs).

For the economic contest in July: