Popular Economics Weekly

The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave markets a shot of good news recently, when it revised the one year March-to-March 2012 jobs totals upward by 32,000 per month. This was huge and showed much better jobs growth than initially forecast by the Labor Dept., with the private sector providing 453,000 additional jobs March-to-March Q1, and a 386,000 net total with government job losses included. We have to wait until this Friday to know if September’s unemployment report more accurately reflects the current unemployment picture.

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Graph: Calculated Risk

In fact, we may be seeing the BLS under estimating job formation again this year, as Q2 job growth was less, but all indicators are that it will improve this fall. For instance, weekly initial jobless claims fell a very sharp 26,000 to 359,000 in the week of Sept. 22, while consumers are spending more going into the holidays and the latest manufacturing report was very positive with increased hiring. The largest upward revisions were in Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, followed by Construction, Leisure and Hospitality jobs.

The ISM manufacturing index saw a huge boost after 3 down months to a 51.5 percent reading for manufacturing activity.

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Graph: Econoday

Details back the optimism with new orders, at 52.3, showing solid growth. Employment is the big plus in the September report, rising 3.1 points to a 54.7 level that indicates a surprisingly brisk pace of hiring. Negatives include a fourth month of contraction for new export orders, which reflects weak global markets, and a sixth straight contraction in total backlog orders.

Another sign of improving jobs picture was the jump in consumer optimism. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index showed the consumer mood improved in September, jumping a very strong nine points to 70.3. This was the best reading since February and the third best reading of the whole recovery, said Econoday.

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This report stressed the consumer’s improved assessment of the jobs market. Those saying jobs are currently hard to get fell seven tenths to 39.9 percent, which is the best reading since April. Those saying that jobs are plentiful rose, up 1.1 percentage points to a still however very modest 8.3 percent. Backing up these current readings was strength in the consumer’s outlook for the jobs market where more see more jobs ahead and substantially fewer see fewer jobs.

So we have reason to believe both jobs and economic growth will accelerate in the coming months. Then there is the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keep interest rates at historic lows for as long as it takes to bring the unemployment rate down to more acceptable levels, such as 6 percent. This will not be easy, with Bernanke warning that the deadlocked Congress needs to provide some fiscal stimulus as well. We know austerity doesn’t work from the European example.

Harlan Green © 2012