BLS Employment Situation Report: September 2018

Job creation in September 2018, in terms of raw numbers, did not reach the heights of August or some of the year's other most robust periods. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that nonfarm payroll businesses in the U.S. brought on 134,000 new workers during the month in its latest edition of the Employment Situation Summary, considerably less than August's 210,000 jobs. Also, the number failed to meet economists' expectations: Bloomberg's survey of economic experts had projected 185,000 new positions created, while The New York Times reported that Wall Street's general estimate was more conservative (168,000) but still greater than the final result.

However, a number of seasonal and situational factors that do not reflect the broader direction of the American economy are the most direct causes of slowed job growth, not least of which is the impact that Hurricane Florence had on several states along the eastern seaboard. Additionally, the BLS noted that the survey periods during which the agency collected its data on employment and unemployment directly coincided with the storm's landfall, which may have adversely affected initial results. Figure adjustments to account for such anomalies, which routinely occur after the initial release of the Employment Situation, may thus reveal more positive numbers.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell in September to reach a new low for the year: 3.7 percent. As noted by the Times, this figure isn't merely a landmark for 2018, but also the lowest jobless percentage on record since 1969. Speaking with Bloomberg, Alan Krueger, former leader of the White House Council of Economic Advisers to President Barack Obama and a noted economics professor at Harvard University, said mitigating factors impacting the numbers should not detract from an ultimately positive conclusion.

"The markets could give this a little bit of a pass because it's not clear what impact the hurricane had at the moment," Krueger told the news provider. "I would view this as a full-employment jobs report."

The industries responsible for the latest round of job growth should come as no surprise, based on trends within the U.S. economy over the past 12 to 18 months: Professional and business services was well ahead of all other fields for the third month in a row, adding 54,000 positions in September and beating its own gains from the month before by 1,000. Healthcare took second place yet again, albeit with 26,000 new jobs - less than half the growth seen in the No. 1 sector.

Meanwhile, transportation and warehousing surged ahead after several months of no statistically significant activity to create 24,000 positions, and construction was right on its heels with 23,000 new jobs. Manufacturing and mining also added staff to their payrolls in September - 18,000 and 6,000, respectively, with the latter mostly dependent on support-services positions for its job growth. No other sector saw any meaningful increases. In terms of losses, a drop of 17,000 workers in leisure and hospitality stood out as the only notable labor decline, and can be attributed at least in part to Hurricane Florence and the transition from summer to autumn that often produces staff cuts.

Average hourly pay increased by 8 cents, or 0.3 percent, from the previous month, per the BLS's figures. This represents a 2.8 percent year-over-year increase, which is still less than what one might expect given the breakneck pace of job growth during that time. Nevertheless, economists and business leaders can find much to be pleased with in the overall picture that this data paints, including reinforcement of hopes that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates one more time before the end of 2018.

 

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