MARKET UPDATE July 7, 2017
June job gains come in hot
By Greg Richardson - EVP of Capital Markets
Employment in the U.S. thundered in June as the labor market added 222,000 new jobs to the economy, surpassing analyst expectations by several thousand, according to job numbers released Friday.
Wages grew by 2.5 percent over the last year while unemployment was little changed, bumping up to 4.4 percent. The average workweek went up to 34.5 hours while the labor force participation rate, which measures the number of people actively employed or looking for work, remained unchanged at 62.8 percent. In May, that number was 62.7 percent, and it was the same in June 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The robust report follows May’s disappointing employment numbers, which showed that only 138,000 new jobs were created, massively short of the 185,000 analysts expected.
Friday’s turnaround is a boon for the economy in a month that marked the eighth anniversary of the end of the recession, when unemployment was rampant and employers slashed jobs and eliminated positions.
Ahead of the report’s release, President Donald Trump took to Twitter earlier this week to praise the job gains, vowing to his followers that “things are starting to kick in now, and we have just begun!”
Markets took a subdued response to the news, primarily because wage growth numbers were not as significant as they had hoped. Wages have been one of the slowest metrics to recover after the recession’s economic slowdown.
So what makes the jobs report so special that we write about it each month? Well, it’s one of the most reliable gauges for the economy’s performance and gives analysts their ammo when making economic forecasts. Plus, it gives stocks and bond traders an idea of whether market conditions justify investment.
There are two key pieces of data in the report — the establishment survey, which collects employment information from some 400,000 firms in the U.S., and the household survey, which tells us the number of unemployed people in the economy (this is where we learn the unemployment rate).
In Fed news…
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released the minutes from its June meeting, when it raised the benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a point and unveiled a plan to trim its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.
Fed officials feel they can trim the balance sheet with minimal disruption to markets, but remain vague on when the runoff process should begin. Some economists speculate Fed Chair Janet Yellen could disclose more details when she testifies in front of Congress next Wednesday. Others say it’s possible the Fed could launch its plan as early as September.
Time will tell. A few bank presidents appear reluctant to start too soon, fearing that softening inflation could imperil the economy if the Fed moves hastily. Inflation this year has been fairly benign although officials concede the situation is likely temporary and levels, over the long term, will meet the 2 percent target. Inflation now is running at a 1.7 percent annual pace.
Officials are also divided on how far they should allow the unemployment rate to fall. Now at 4.4 percent, the rate is still too short of what the Fed considers full employment (4.7 percent). This scenario raises concerns that declining unemployment could trigger inflation, forcing the Fed to immediately hike interest rates to keep inflation in check and prevent the economy from growing too quickly.
Wednesday’s nebulous commentary created a miniature market frenzy Thursday, with Treasuries selling off completely before rallying back to day-highs. Since June 26, the 10-year yield has gone up from 2.12 percent to a high of 2.38 percent. The effect has been global, prodded by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s comments last week suggesting a less risky outlook for the European economy.
For months, analysts have speculated the Fed would delay raising rates in September, hiking them in December instead. But now economists wonder if the Fed will choose to take rate action in September, after all, and use December to commence its balance sheet runoff.
The Fed will host two more press conferences after its big meetings in September and December. We’ll have to wait until then to determine in what direction Fed officials will move.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
GREG RICHARDSON - EVP OF CAPITAL MARKETS
Greg Richardson is Movement's EVP of Capital Markets and a contributing author to the Movement Blog. His weekly market update is a must-read commentary on financial markets, the mortgage industry and interest rates. Greg is an industry veteran who knows how to read the financial tea leaves and make complex industry data easy for loan officers, real estate agents and homebuyers to understand.