For the employment bulls, at least, the October payroll figures were well worth the wait. Indeed, after the government shutdown had delayed by a week the Labor Department's release of employment figures for last month, that federal agency reported today that the nation had added 204,000 jobs last month. That was nearly double the 120,000 expectation.
Breaking the report down, we find that employment levels increased in leisure and hospitality, retail trade, professional and technical services, manufacturing, and healthcare. It was a broad and significant uptick that suggests whatever dislocations evolved from the aforementioned government shutdown were temporary and not very material.
However, the jobless rate, which is derived from a separate survey, rose from 7.2% to 7.3%. Also, the number of persons reported as being on temporary layoff increased by 448,000. This number includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed due to the government shutdown. Unemployment among most groups, meantime, showed very little month-to-month change.
As to the employment gain, it was clearly above consensus. But the number was likely skewed by the shutdown and may well have less validity and be subject to greater adjustments going forward than usual. So, the reaction of economists and market traders may tend to be more muted than normally would be the case after a consensus beat of this magnitude.
The much better employment figures, combined with stronger-than-expected increases in personal income and consumer spending figures released this morning, meanwhile, are good omens for the holiday shopping season. The latest jobs report also is consistent with the better recent readings on a succession of key economic reports ranging from manufacturing, to non-manufacturing, to the leading indicators issued in recent days. Such data also suggest that the recent step-up in third-quarter GDP growth to a well-above-consensus 2.8% may be an indication that any falloff in the fourth quarter may be smaller than many believe.
On the flip side, the Federal Reserve now may be more disposed to commence its expected monetary tapering sooner rather than later. And that would not be a welcome development for the markets.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.