Friday, January 07, 2011

Mediocre U.S. Employment Report

Today's U.S. employment report was overall somewhat weak-at least compared to many of the other stronger reports recently released.

The household survey was this month somewhat stronger than the payroll report, following two months of very weak household surveys. It wasn't as strong as the drop in the unemployment rate suggested though. Most of that drop was the result of a decline in the labor force participation rate, which dropped to a record low 64.3% from 64.5% the previous month. The employment rate rose to 58.3% from the cyclical low of 58.2% the previous month. That is still very bad.

The payroll survey showed a gain of 103,000, barely sufficient to keep up with population growth. The private sector and the federal government continued to add jobs, something which was partially counteracted with continued job cuts from state and local governments.

Meanwhile, the average work week was unchanged, and average hourly earnings rose a mere 0.1% (likely zero or negative after adjusting for inflation) suggesting together with the moderate employment increase a modest gain in aggregate nominal labor earnings and even smaller or flat change in aggregate real labor earnings.

All in all, most economic reports recently released indicate a slight acceleration in the U.S. recovery. This employment report would by contrast indicate that the recovery continues at the previous ver modest pace.