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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Preview: Employment Report for December

by Calculated Risk on 1/07/2015 03:51:00 PM

Friday at 8:30 AM ET, the BLS will release the employment report for December. The consensus, according to Bloomberg, is for an increase of 245,000 non-farm payroll jobs in December (with a range of estimates between 202,000 and 305,000), and for the unemployment rate to decline to 5.7%.

The BLS reported 321,000 jobs added in November.

Here is a summary of recent data:

• The ADP employment report showed an increase of 241,000 private sector payroll jobs in November. This was above expectations of 223,000 private sector payroll jobs added. The ADP report hasn't been very useful in predicting the BLS report for any one month, but in general, this suggests employment growth slightly above expectations.

• The ISM manufacturing employment index increased in December to 56.8%. A historical correlation between the ISM manufacturing employment index and the BLS employment report for manufacturing, suggests that private sector BLS manufacturing payroll jobs increased about 18,000 in December. The ADP report indicated a 26,000 increase for manufacturing jobs in December.

The ISM non-manufacturing employment index decreased in December to 56.0%. A historical correlation (linear) between the ISM non-manufacturing employment index and the BLS employment report for non-manufacturing, suggests that private sector BLS non-manufacturing payroll jobs increased about 234,000 in December.

Combined, the ISM indexes suggests employment gains of 252,000.  This suggests growth slightly above expectations.

Initial weekly unemployment claims averaged close to 291,000 in December, down from 299,000 in November. For the BLS reference week (includes the 12th of the month), initial claims were at 289,000; this was down from 292,000 during the reference week in November.

Generally this suggests about the same low level of layoffs in December as for the previous three months (employment gains averaged 278,000 per month for September, October and November).

• The final December Reuters / University of Michigan consumer sentiment index increased to 93.6 from the November reading of 88.8. This was the highest level in nearly eight years. Sentiment is frequently coincident with changes in the labor market, but there are other factors too - like sharply lower gasoline prices.

• On small business hiring: The small business index from Intuit showed a 30,000 increase in small business employment in December, the same strong level as in November.

• Trim Tabs reported that the U.S. economy added between 210,000 to 240,000 jobs in December. This is down sharply from their 306,000 estimate last month (that was pretty close). "TrimTabs’ employment estimates are based on analysis of daily income tax deposits to the U.S. Treasury from the paychecks of the 141 million U.S. workers subject to withholding"  December is more challenging for TrimTabs due to year end bonuses - so they provided a range this month.

• Conclusion: Below is a table showing several employment indicators and the initial BLS report (the first column is the revised employment). Two key points:

1) Unfortunately none of the indicators below is very good at predicting the initial BLS employment report.

2) In general it looks like this should be another 200+ month (based on ADP, ISM, unemployment claims, and small business hiring).

There is always some randomness to the employment report.  The consensus forecast is pretty strong, but I'll take the over again (above 245,000).

Employment Indicators (000s)
Nov  32120826029230
Dec  Friday24125228930
1Lower is better for Unemployment Claims