Payroll employment rose by 148,000 in December, which on the surface looked like a miss but the fourth quarter was the strongest of the year with the addition of 611,000 new jobs; it was the second-strongest quarter for employment in the last two years. Read More »
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Our forecast for nonfarm payroll employment is an increase of 180,000 for December after moving above 200,000 during the last two months. The catch-up in employment related to hurricane disruptions is behind us now. Employers tell us that it is harder to find workers to fill positions, particularly low-wage jobs.
Payroll employment rose a more-than-expected 228,000 in November. The largest increases occurred in health care, professional services and manufacturing. Gains in health care and professional hires were concentrated in low-wage areas, which include support staff and non-doctor health care providers. That marks a shift from earlier in the year when much of the hiring in professional services was for new college graduates who are higher on the wage scale. The increase in administrative help reflects the expansion of offices; this is an area where employment agencies have reported shortages.
Our forecast for November payrolls is 180,000, which will reflect a rebound from storm-related losses in October. Retail is a sector to watch. The move from bricks to clicks is likely to limit the holiday hires we see compared to prior years. Warm weather across much of the country will also hit seasonal spending on everything from snow shovels to coats and boots.
An acute shortage of truck drivers is another factor for retailers.
Payroll employment rose 261,000 in October after upward revisions to August and September. What was initially a decline of 33,000 in September is now a slight 18,000 increase. The biggest mover was leisure and hospitality, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Irma as power outages idled resorts and restaurants in Florida and nearby states. The gains were in line with our expectations but below market expectations, likely reflecting disruptions to business created by fires and evacuations in California.
Payroll employment is widely expected to rebound in October after cratering during the month of September. Hurricane Irma and the electricity outages that followed took a toll on jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector; those should come back since power was restored in Florida. The only wrinkle could be the fires in California, which sidelined some workers, most notably in wine country during the week the survey was taken. On net, we are expecting payroll employment to rebound by 250,000 for October, just 75,000 shy of the current consensus.
Average hourly earnings are expected to rise 0.1% in October after surging at a 0.5% pace in the month of September.
Payroll employment dropped by 33,000 in September, the first time in six years that employment slipped into the red. Disruptions created by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were the primary reason for the weakness. Private sector job losses offset some public sector gains, which is not surprising given the number of federal, state and local officials who worked around the clock once the storms hit.
The largest job losses occurred in the service sector where power outages and ongoing flood clean-up disrupted business. The leisure and hospitality sector alone lost more than 100,000 jobs, almost entirely at food services and drinking places. Jobs at nursing homes were affected, which is not be a surprise given the number of patients moved as Hurricane Irma approached Florida.
Hurricanes Irma and Harvey Drive Data South
Payroll employment is expected to flatline in September as the number of hourly jobs disrupted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma offsets those created during the month. The hardest hit will be jobs in the service sector. We may also see a blow to manufacturing employment because some manufacturers were forced to close plants in response to electricity outages as well as a shortfall in the number of people who were able to get to work during the week of the survey for the employment report, which was September 12. Disruptions to the data from Irma will show up as greater than those of Harvey because it occurred closer to the survey week.
Payroll employment rose a smaller-than-expected 156,000, well below consensus estimates and was revised down for the previous two months. A big disappointment was the shortfall in hiring in the warehousing and transportation sector. Amazon had a one-day job fair on August 2 when the company hoped to bring on 50,000 new hires in a day. Anecdotal reports suggest that they fell short of their expectations. August employment data suggest that they hardly moved the needle on hiring
Our forecast shows payroll employment rising by 170,000, a sharp slowdown from June and July. August tends to be a weaker month despite efforts by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to smooth the seasonal adjustment. Hiring associated with the start of the school year may affect the August data; substitute teachers are particularly scarce this year. Vehicle production has been cut, which will curtail the usual rebound in August from July plant closings.