Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
Nonfarm payrolls rose 103,000 in September (slightly above consensus expectations), following upwardly revised gains of 57,000 in August and 127,000 in September (adding nearly 100,000 in sum). However, September’s increase was boosted by the return of 45,000 telecommunications workers who had been on strike in August. Also, more than half of the upward revision to the two prior months reflected upward adjustments to government employees (largely local government education workers, perhaps reflecting some seasonal back-to-school timing issues).
Importantly, the near-term trend has yet to show a meaningful pickup. It has, in fact, slowed since the first six months of year, as nonfarm payrolls have risen on average just 96,000 over the past three months, compared to 131,000 over the first six months. That trajectory is roughly the same for private payrolls. They have averaged a 117,000 increase over the last three months, down from their monthly average of 165,000 over the first six months of 2011.
Goods-producing payrolls increased by 18,000 in September, more than reversing a 9,000 decrease in August. The series has improved by 430,000 from its current cyclical low in February 2010, but it is still down 320,000 from its level at the end of the recession. September’s slight gain in goods-producing employment was driven by a 26,000 increase in construction payrolls (largely nonresidential construction workers and specialty trade contractors). Manufacturing payrolls slipped down 13,000 during the month (auto payrolls were flat), and mining employment increased by 5,400.
Private service-providing payrolls rose 119,000 in September, though without the return of the striking telecommunications workers the increase would have been just 74,000. Healthcare employment continued to outshine gains in other sectors, rising 44,000 in September. It is now up 650,000 since the end of the recession (about 40 percent of that gain has come in the first nine months of this year).
Elsewhere, professional and business services employment rose 48,000 in September (bolstered by a 19,400 increase in temporary help services). Retail trade payrolls increased 13,600. Government payrolls continued to trend down, slipping 34,000 in September. They have decreased by 267,000 since the beginning of the year. Local government workers, a sizable part of the overall downward trend, fell 35,000. Local government educational services employment decreased 24,400 in September, after an 11,800 gain in August (that was revised up from a 14,000 decrease). Still, the series is down 84,200 over the past six months.
Other indicators on the establishment side were mixed in September. Hours and earnings roughly reversed their respective decreases in August. However, the diffusion index slipped down 0.2 points to 55.4 in September, remaining well below its recent cyclical high of 70.8 in February. The manufacturing sector diffusion index slipped down from 48.8 in August to 46.3 in September, its lowest level since last October.
On the household side, the unemployment rate—which hasn’t moved much all year—remained at 9.1 percent in September. An alternative measure of labor market health—the employment-to-population ratio—ticked up 0.1 percentage point to 58.3 in September, though it is still 0.1 percentage point below its level at the start of 2011 and a little over 1.0 percentage point below its June 2009 level of 59.4 percent.