Forex Data Matchup: U.S. vs. Canadian Job Reports

In case you were too busy looking up Game Day seven-layer dip recipes last week, you should know that both the U.S. and Canada had printed their latest employment numbers. Which report caused cheers and which one stirred concerns among forex traders? Let’s break down the numbers.

U.S. Non-Farm Payrolls Report

  • 151K jobs were added vs. expected 189K gain in January
  • Unemployment rate drops to an 8-year low of 4.9% from 5.0%
  • Average hourly earnings and weekly hours worked up in January

The headline figure caused some ruckus among forex traders when it reflected that only 151K workers had found jobs in January. Not only is it below the expected 189K uptick, but it also marks the weakest gain since September and is well below 2015’s average of 228K.

December’s adjustments didn’t look good either, since it was revised down from 292K to 262K even as November’s numbers were adjusted higher from 252K to 280K. Luckily, the unemployment rate warded off some losses when it came in at 4.9% (an 8-year low) from last month’s 5.0% rate, while the labor participation rate also ticked higher from 62.6 to 62.7.Fotolia_68251222_Subscription_Monthly_M-1

What caught the investors’ more was details on wages. Average hourly earnings chalked up a 0.5% gain from a year earlier to $25.39, which, after adding December’s 2.7% uptick, marks the largest increase since mid-2009. A closer look tells us that the 14 states starting the year by raising their minimum wages might have factored in (though not by much). Average work week also got extended by 6 minutes to 34.6 hours, the longest since August.

Overall, the improvements in hourly earnings and working hours point to more take home pay for the average Joe. This presents a dilemma for the Fed’s meeting in March, especially after some members had expressed their dovish stances. If you recall, the dollar got knocked down last week thanks to these dovish speeches as well as concerns for Uncle Sam’s GDP and services sector. Will this mean that the Fed won’t need to raise its rates four times in 2016 as they had forecasted?

Canadian Employment Report

  • A net of 5,700 workers lost jobs in January
  • Unemployment rate up by 7.0% to 7.1%
  • Labor participation rate unchanged at 65.9%
  • Employment numbers in oil-producing Alberta highlighted

A net of 5,700 workers lost jobs in January as the 5,600 workers who found full-time jobs were offset by the 11,300 layoffs in part-time positions. Market players had been expecting a net increase of 5,500 to 6,000 jobs. Labor participation rate remained unchanged and pushed the country’s unemployment rate to a two-year high of 7.2%.

Much emphasis was placed on employment figures in Alberta. The oil-producing province saw a net decrease of 10,000 jobs in January with 22,000 full-time layoffs offsetting the 12,000 increase in part-time work. On a year-over-year basis the region is looking at a 73,000 decline for full-time workers and an addition of 38,000 part-time jobs.

This brings the region’s unemployment rate to 7.4%, the highest since February 1996 and the first time since December 1988 that it has surpassed the national rate. The other provinces also saw weaknesses with only Ontario swimming upstream with a net addition of 20,000 jobs.

No surprise where Canada’s jobs woes came from. Since the summer of 2014 oil prices have dropped by around 70% and dragged on the oil-producing economy. Not all hope is lost though, as reports like last Friday’s IVEY PMI and trade data still showing bright spots in the economy. All eyes will be on the BOC to see if they’ll stimulate spending by cutting its interest rates as the members had considered last month.

Market Reaction

The dollar was initially sold across the board at the release of the worse-than-expected NFP headline figures, but was soon caught up in a rally after a second look at details. The Loonie wasn’t as lucky, as it was sold throughout the session despite the release of better-than-expected trade and manufacturing numbers.

It’s tough to predict whether last Friday’s U.S. session trends will stick with so many major markets out on holidays. Best be on your toes for any signs of reversals or follow-through. It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to risk sentiment and oil price movements if you’re planning on trading the dollar or the Loonie some time this week!