June 17, 2019

Hicks: Jobs Report Not Enough to Lead to Rate Cuts

09 June 2019, 05:55 | Hattie Nash

US employers added a weak 75,000 jobs in May

May jobs report: Hiring slowed down in May, just 75,000 jobs added

The Labor Department report, which sometimes can mention special factors that affected jobs or survey responses, didn't cite any such as weather for the latest month.

Friday's jobs report just added fuel to the fire. The Fed says it's "closely monitoring" the effect of trade wars on the economy, and many economists are predicting a rate cut "to stave off a dramatic slowdown". The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.7%, or 183 points, while the S&P 500 similarly grew 0.7%, or 21 points, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced almost 1%, or 73 points.

Unemployment held steady at 3-point-6 percent, meaning joblessness is still hovering near a half-century low.

Earlier this week, a key metric of USA manufacturing activity showed that while manufacturing continues to expand in general, it did so last month at the slowest pace in over two years.

Last month's slowdown in job gains, however, probably understates the labour market's health as layoffs remain low.

Then last week, Trump opened up a new trade war front against another major U.S. trading partner - Mexico - warning that he will impose five-percent tariffs on all Mexican goods on Monday unless more is done to stem the flow of undocumented migrants seeking to enter the USA via Mexico.

Automakers are cutting jobs and production as USA sales have slowed. "Coming in the context of tariffs and other economic headwinds makes this number more worrisome".

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As the world's largest economy nears its longest-ever expansion in July, the employment report may amplify rhetoric that Fed rate cuts are needed to support growth.

The deceleration in hiring could mean that some employers are just having trouble finding the workers they need, given that the pool of unemployed is comparatively small.

Average wages rose 3.2 percent in April compared with a year ago, a solid if not exceptional gain.

Hiring slowed across all sectors in May. "Manufacturing did slow over the last few months ... but attributing that to trade right now is tricky because Mexico just started and the China negotiations did only hit a roadblock in May".

The May employment figure, which CNN said in its report is "surprisingly low", vastly contradicts the 185,000 job gains economists have predicted for the month.

Employers in the construction sector hired 4,000 workers in May.

Retailers, hammered by online competition, have cut jobs for the past three months. A category that includes telecom, publishing, and media shed 5,000 jobs.

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There was widespread expectation among economists outside the White House that growth and hiring would slow this year after a strong 2018 that was boosted by the tax cuts and additional government spending. "One of the economy's only bright spots is finally weakening". A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they can not find full-time employment, dropped to 7.1 per cent last month, the lowest since December 2000. The company hires software developers in its Sacramento office, and is able to attract employees who are exhausted of the high cost of living in San Francisco.

President Donald Trump's trade wars have become a growing threat.

Manufacturing payrolls increased by 3,000 last month, after gaining 5,000 positions in April.

Last week, Trump said he would impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico in a bid to force authorities in that country to stop immigrants from Central America from crossing the border into the United States.

The higher costs from the import taxes - and the potential for more - are causing some companies to scale back plans for spending, investment and expansion.

"Economic growth is clearly slowing, as indicated by the slower pace of job growth in May, downward revisions in prior months, and a leveling out of wage growth", said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association. Orders for machinery and equipment fell 1% in April.

Automakers are cutting jobs and production as US sales have slowed. Analysts expect auto sales to fall below 17 million this year after four years above that level.

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