Unemployment Report Produces Positive Surprises

The widely anticipated August Unemployment Report covering the month of July was just released. Let’s dive right in and take a look at the numbers . . .

Unemployment Rate
May 8.9%
June: 9.4%
July: 9.5%
August: 9.4%

LD: This number is surprising on its face, as expectations were for the rate to move to 9.6% or 9.7%. What happened? Overall, this report does certainly reflect a growing sense of stability in employment BUT this figure also reflects the fact that 422k people have left the labor force, meaning they have given up looking for work. Long term unemployed rose by 584k and now exceeds 5 million people. As time goes by, more and more of these people will stop receiving unemployment benefits.

Non-Farm Payroll
May: loss of 519k
June: loss of 322k
July: loss of 467k
August: loss of 247k

LD: This number, along with a positive revision of a net 43k jobs to prior months, is another indication of growing stability. Construction lost 76k jobs. Manufacturing lost 52k jobs. Before the economy can do better, it has to stop doing worse. This report plays into that. However, I would ask the question if the economy will merely adapt to overall lessened employment for a protracted period.

Average Hourly Earnings
May : +.1
June: +.1%
July: 0.0%
August: +.2%

LD: Another positive sign, although it is muted by the fact that last month’s hourly earnings was surprisingly weak. Over the two month period, an average of .1% per month is to be expected. Will this support a sudden pickup in consumer demand? I doubt it.

Average Hourly Workweek
May: 33.2 hours
June: 33.1 hours
July: 33.0 hours
August: 33.1 hours

LD: Again, this piece of data is consistent with the other parts of this report. For perspective, though, be mindful that last month’s reading was the lowest figure for this data since 1964.

Further Color: While many economists will spin this report as a clear sign of an improving economy, I maintain it is a sign of an adapting economy. I am surprised and disheartened by the fact that so many people have actually left the labor force. That level of discouraged workers, along with the level of long-term unemployed, plays into a real structural problem and long term drag on our economy.

Market Reaction: Equity futures have spiked by approximately .7%, but the biggest market reaction is in the bond market as interest rates have moved higher by approximately 12 basis points across the curve. What is going on there? The market is going to price in an expected increase in rates by the Federal Reserve sooner than Ben Bernanke would otherwise prefer. Recall how Bernanke at his recent Congressional testimony emphatically stated he would leave rates unchanged for an extended period. The market reaction is stating that he may not have that luxury. Why? Fears of inflation.

Additionally, this report will make the underwriting of the massive Treasury supply (3yr, 10yr, 30yr) next week very challenging.

The greenback also had a nice spike after this report. This move is consistent with a market expectation of an increase in rates by the Federal Reserve.

Can the equity market continue to rally in the face of rising rates? I will monitor closely.

About Larry Doyle 522 Articles

Larry Doyle embarked on his Wall Street career in 1983 as a mortgage-backed securities trader for The First Boston Corporation. He was involved in the growth and development of the secondary mortgage market from its near infancy.

After close to 7 years at First Boston, Larry joined Bear Stearns in early 1990 as a mortgage trader. In 1993, Larry was named a Senior Managing Director at the firm. He left Bear to join Union Bank of Switzerland in late 1996 as Head of Mortgage Trading.

In 1998, after 15 years of trading and precipitated by Swiss Bank’s takeover of UBS, Larry moved from trading to sales as a senior salesperson at Bank of America. His move into sales led him to the role as National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase in 2000. He was integrally involved in developing the department, hiring 40 salespeople, and generating $300 million in sales revenue. He left JP Morgan in 2006.

Throughout his career, Larry eagerly engaged clients and colleagues. He has mentored dozens of junior colleagues, recruited at a number of colleges and universities, and interviewed hundreds. He has also had extensive public speaking experience. Additionally, Larry served as Chair of the Mortgage Trading Committee for the Public Securities Association (PSA) in the mid-90s.

Larry graduated Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1983 from the College of the Holy Cross.

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