A strong jobs report could provide reassurance on economy

06 Janvier, 2019, 18:13 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
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The Labor Department reports the economy produced 312,000 new jobs in December, drawing thousands of Americans back into the labor force. Average hourly earnings are expected to have climbed 3 percent from a year ago, up from a year-over-year gain of 2.7 percent at the end of 2017.

"Incorporating revisions for October and November, which increased payrolls by 58,000, monthly job gains averaged 254,000 over the past 3 months", said William Wiatrowski, acting commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ADP National Employment Report on Thursday showed private payrolls jumped 271,000 last month after increasing 157,000 in November.

This is a developing story.

The U.S. government shutdown and Trump's attacks on the Fed and its chairman over the central bank's rate increases have also anxious investors, though Powell may have eased some of those concerns Friday when he stressed that he would not resign if the president told him to do so.

On Thursday, a gauge of factory activity in the USA fell by the most in a decade.

The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% as more people were looking for work.

Speaking at an American Economic Association event with former Fed chiefs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke on Friday, Powell sought to placate jittery financial markets. The U.S. dollar turned positive against a basket of currencies.

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The Labor Department will remain funded during the shutdown, so the preparation of Friday's and future reports was not affected.

"This should, at least for today, mute expectations that the Fed is off the table completely this year", said Omair Sharif, a senior economist at Societe Generale in NY. The number of unemployed increased by 276,000 to 6.3 million. The Labor Department has not been affected by the partial shutdown of the USA government and will continue to publish economic data complied by its statistics agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data releases from Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis have been suspended during the shutdown, which started on Dec 22 amid demands by President Donald Trump for US$5 billion in border wall funding. "Expectations regarding job prospects and business conditions weakened, but still suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the short-term", said Lynn Franco, a senior director at the Conference Board. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Refinitiv was for 177,000 new jobs. Slow job gains in November were largely blamed on unseasonably chilly temperatures, which stymied hiring at construction sites.

With the labour market viewed at being at or beyond full employment, the pace of job growth is slowing as employers struggle to find workers.

Businesses are still searching for more workers.

Paychecks grew as employers raised wages to attract new workers. The government shutdown, if it extends beyond next week, could weigh on January payrolls.

Jobs in construction rose by 38,000 with job gains in heavy and civil engineering construction and nonresidential specialty trade construction. Retail employment increased by 23,800 jobs. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 55,000 jobs. Manufacturing payrolls are forecast to have increased by 20,000 jobs in December, but could surprise on the downside after a measure of factory employment fell last month. The health and education sector added 82,000 positions.

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