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November 03, 2006
The Employment Situation Gets Curiouser And Curiouser
The big news today was not the preliminary report for net job creation in October, but the attention-getting revisions in the employment estimates for the prior three months. From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
U.S. payrolls posted moderate growth last month but prior months were revised sharply higher. The unemployment rate fell to a five-and-a-half year low. The report, which comes just ahead of the midterm election, suggests that labor-market conditions remain very favorable for U.S. workers.
I'll let others argue about that characterization of the labor market, but there is no doubt that the weak-looking preliminary jobs data from September now looks pretty robust:
The preliminary October data suggests a drop-off in employment growth, but you will be forgiven for taking a wait-and-see attitude on that one. Beyond the absolute number, the sectoral distribution of job creation looks pretty familiar:
The exception there is construction employment, which finally decided to show some real honest-to-goodness shrinkage. That would be the sign of spillover from the housing market that some have been warning about, but if you want to remain an optimist today brought you this as well:
A separate report showed that service-sector activity in the U.S. accelerated more than expected in October.
That separate report was on the ISM non-manufacturing report:
The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, C.P.M., CFPM, chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee; and senior vice president — supply management for Hilton Hotels Corporation. "Non-manufacturing business activity increased for the 43rd consecutive month in October," Nieves said. He added, "Business Activity increased at a faster rate in October than in September. Inventories, New Export Orders, Imports and Inventory Sentiment also increased at a faster rate. Nine of 18 non-manufacturing industry sectors reported increased activity in October. Members' comments in October continue to be mixed concerning current business conditions; however, the majority of the comments are positive. The Prices Index decreased 4.8 percentage points this month to 51.9 percent. The overall indication in October is continued economic growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a faster pace than in September."
Up to today, it was a week of not-so-great economic news. But several of those reports were concentrated in the sectors that, as the detail on job growth above makes clear, are in fact not doing so great: Manufacturing (here and here) and construction, in particular. For now, I'm sticking with my call.
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