Last Friday, we received the non-farm payrolls report for the month of April. Sadly, it wasn’t as hot as the Avengers opening weekend.
Non-farm payrolls clocked in at just 115,000 in April, which is way worse than the projected 170,000 increase. Looking deeper into the figures, we’ll see that the increase is mostly due to a steady effort from the private sector, which added 130,000 new jobs. The manufacturing sector alone contributed 16,000 jobs in the mix.
Unfortunately, the transportation and warehousing sectors lost nearly 17,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the public sector (a.k.a. the government) lost 15,000 jobs, as government officials are still concerned with reducing overall debt.
Another major concern is that the participation rate has dropped to a 30-year low of 63.6% of the working age population. If you recall, the participation ratio measures how many working-age Americans are actually looking for work and not spending their time playing Diablo 3. This suggests that workers are becoming more discouraged about the state of the labor market and aren’t looking for work anymore.
April’s NFP numbers marked the third straight month the report disappointed and failed to hit initial forecasts. This led to some wacky action on the dollar. Check it out:
The Greenback initially dropped once the NFP figures were released, which was exactly the same response we got at last month’s NFP report. Interestingly though, USDX found solid support at the day’s lows around 79.60 then rallied hard, as risk aversion took over the markets. The dollar edged higher against its major counterparts and boosted USDX to the 80.00 area by the end of the day.
Do investors’ concerns suggest that the sky is falling for the U.S. economy?
Not necessarily. You see, even though analysts fell from their seats at the release of April’s NFP figures, many believe that the numbers ain’t that bad.
For one thing, February and March’s NFP numbers were revised higher, suggesting that the last few months weren’t as weak as many initially thought. Payrolls in February got bumped up from 240,000 to 259,000, while March’s payrolls increased from 120,000 to a whopping 145,000.
The weather might have also played a part in the latest job figures. Remember when the NFP reports printed better-than-expected in the last months of 2011? Some say that the relatively warm weather boosted hiring in the winter months, which makes spring employment look weaker in comparison.
The last but definitely not the least reason why other market geeks aren’t worried is that the Fed doesn’t look too worried either. The central bank has already predicted employment growth to slow down in the near future, with unemployment rate falling from 8.0% to 7.8% in Q4 2012. Unless the trend continues, or if manufacturing, housing, or confidence reports show the same weakness, then the Fed won’t likely change its “no QE3 for now” stance.
While the latest NFP numbers didn’t meet market players’ expectations, a deeper look at the report reveals that it isn’t so bad either. After all, the data didn’t show us anything that we didn’t already know. At the very least, we have to take a look at the upcoming U.S. reports before we give our verdict on the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.