Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged (with a margin of error of plus or minus 100,000) in August, following downwardly revised gains of 85,000 (from 117,000) in July and 20,000 (from 46,000) in June. However, those downward revisions were almost entirely due to a bleaker picture of government payrolls, as private nonfarm payrolls were only revised down by 3,000 over June and July. Still, over the past three months nonfarm payrolls are averaging a gain of just 35,000, roughly half of its average over the previous 12 months. Private payrolls are telling a similar story of stagnation, averaging just 83,000 over the past three months, compared to an average of 144,000 over the prior 12 months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did note a couple of special factors in August. First, 45,000 Verizon workers were on strike during the reference week (and thus off company payrolls in August), accounting for nearly all of the the decline in the information sector (which fell 48,000). Importantly, even after adding back the workers on strike, private payrolls would have only grown by 62,000, which is far from “robust” employment growth. Also, a return of roughly 22,000 government workers in Minnesota following a partial shutdown bolstered state government payrolls. However, despite this one-off increase, government payrolls slipped down by 17,000 in August, largely on a 20,000 decline in local government payrolls. So far this year, local government employment is down by 421,000.
Across broad industries, performance was mixed. Goods-producing payrolls slipped by 3,000 after a 52,000 gain in July. Construction employment fell by 5,000 in August, while manufacturing payrolls edged down by 3,000 after a 36,000 gain in July. On the service side, payrolls rose 20,000, compared to an average increase of roughly 120,000 over the past 12 months. As usual, healthcare payrolls continued to swell, adding 29,700 in August, in-line with its average gain over the past 12 months of 26,000. On the other hand, retail trade employment slipped down 8,000 in August, following gains of 26,000 in July and 12,000 in June. Average weekly hours of all employees ticked down from 0.1 hour to 34.2 hours in August, its lowest level since January. However, the series has improved markedly from its cyclical low of 33.7 hours in June 2009. Also, average (nominal) hourly earnings for all employees fell by $0.03 in August, its sharpest monthly decline over the short history of this series (which goes back to March 2006). The unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent in August, despite a slight increase in the labor force participation rate—up 0.1 percentage points to 64 percent (its first monthly uptick since August 2010). The employment-to-population ratio edged up 0.1 percentage points to 58.2 percent, but is still hovering near current cyclical lows.