Markets & Finance

Employment Picture Improves


September nonfarm payrolls rose 57,000, while the unemployment rate held at 6.1%. Combined with the workweek unchanged at an upwardly revised 33.7 hours, the report supported market hopes that there would finally be some evidence that trends in the labor market may finally be improving with the economy.

As for payrolls, manufacturing declined only 29,000, which was the best monthly change of the year, while Construction (+14,000 jobs), Business Services (+66,000), and Health Care (+15,000) all remained firm. It was also encouraging that other industries that have revealed little growth this year were able to post gains in September, with Trade jobs rising 14,000 and Retail jobs up 10,000.

Nonetheless, we would note that the rise in aggregate payrolls in September is still well below the "sustainable" growth rate (+125,000 to 150,000) that would remove concerns about a jobless recovery. In addition, hourly earnings dropped an unusual 0.1%, suggesting that aggregate income on the month -- which drives consumer spending -- remains disappointing.

Overall, it does not come as much surprise to see some early signs of improvement, given how robust economic activity was over the summer. The key will be whether this improving trend can be sustained in the months ahead. From MMS International


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