Thursday, June 2, 2022

An Uncertain Jobs Market

 The Mortgage Corner

Calculated Risk

The financial markets will be watching tomorrow’s unemployment report closely to see if job growth remains strong, or weakens in the face of the many uncertainties plaguing markets, including rising interest rates and soaring inflation.

Yesterday’s JOLTS report that measured the number of job openings and hires in the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey provides a hint of what’s to come. Most headlines touted that the 11.4 million job openings in May was a “severe” drop from 11.9 million vacancies in April, signaling more weakness.

But the 11.9 million April number was revised from the original estimate of 11.4 million, which really meant that April to May job vacancies were in essence unchanged showing openings and new hires (6.6 million) were still at record levels.

So, I very cautiously predict Friday’s U.S. unemployment report will also look better than predicted, and above initial estimates of just 250,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs in May.

No wonder markets are confused. What does one believe—certainly not the headlines. We would be better when reading between the lines!

The consumer confidence indicators are showing that consumers are also confused but aren’t yet convinced we are headed for a recession, which is probably why consumers have yet to cut back on their spending ways.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® decreased slightly in May, following a small increase in April. The Index now stands at 106.4 (1985=100), down from 108.6 in April (after an upward revision). The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—declined to 149.6 from 152.9 last month. The Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—declined to 77.5 from 79.0.

(But) “By contrast, views of current business conditions—which tend to move ahead of trends in jobs—improved. Overall, the Present Situation Index remains at strong levels, suggesting growth did not contract further in Q2,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

The Institute of Purchasing Managers’ ISM Manufacturing Index also climbed, indicating that the manufacturing sector continued to expand, further reinforcing beliefs that the U.S. economy is still in a very robust growth mode.

“Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in May, with the overall economy achieving a 24th consecutive month of growth, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

Oh yes, and the weekly initial unemployment claims which give the most immediate picture of the jobs market fell by 11,000 last week to 200,000, reflecting the lowest layoffs on record and the strongest labor market in decades.

New filings slid to a 54-year low of 166,000 in March and have hovered near 200,000 since the beginning of the year, government figures show.

So, who or what should one believe about the jobs market? We will know more tomorrow morning with the release of the Labor Department’s ‘official’ May unemployment report.

Harlan Green © 2022

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