United States: Mixed signals for labor market in September
The labor market continued growing in September, but at a decreasing rate, with the most recent jobs report showing signs of weakening economic momentum. Non-farm payrolls increased 136,000 in September, down from August’s revised 168,000 rise and undershooting market expectations of 145,000. The three-month average payroll gains clocked in at 157,000 in September, notably below August’s revised print of 171,000 though comfortably above the 100,000 needed to absorb new entrants in the workforce. Slower job creation in September was driven by a reduction in manufacturing and retail jobs.
Despite this, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in September from 3.7% in August, the lowest rate since December 1969, with market analysts having expected no change. The labor force participation rate stayed at 63.2% in September, flat from August’s reading. Meanwhile, hourly earnings were flat month-on-month following a 0.4% increase in August. However, annual wage growth edged down to 2.9% in September from 3.2% in August, undershooting market expectations.
Looking ahead to the Fed’s December FOMC meeting, James Knightley, an economist at ING, commented:
“With the headwinds from weaker global growth, trade uncertainty and the strong dollar unlikely to disappear anytime soon we are looking for payrolls to average closer to 120,000 for the rest of the year. This suggests pay growth is unlikely to accelerate markedly from here and with inflation picking up, the real wage growth story may not be as positive for spending power. All in all, it looks as though the Fed will need to step in with more policy easing to support the economy.”