The federal government shutdown allowed many government agencies to stop with their normal economics reports, on which the stock market and bond market have come to depend. Now that Uncle Sam and our federal cousins are back to work, we finally will get to see the September Employment Situation report from the U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. Any market participant worth his or her weight in salt ought to know that trusting this unemployment and payrolls report should be considered nothing short of a waste of time.
We were supposed to get this report on October 4, but the Labor Department used the federal government shutdown to avoid reporting these numbers. We believe that they easily could have released this report, but we will not put much emphasis on that for the time being.
Bloomberg has estimates of 185,000 in total nonfarm payrolls, and 184,000 of those expected from the private sector. The official unemployment rate is expected to have remained flat at 7.3%. Again, we do not expect that any of the trading algorithms will have their machines programmed to trade off of this data, unless the numbers are massively better or worse than the estimates would have indicated.
There are two concerns with this report that should be front and center, beyond the latency of the report. The first is that the Labor Department and the formal unemployment reports have been accused of often being not representative for more than two decades now, as they are the closest to the White House. A second issue is that, since the government said this report would be released last week, the fear of information leaks has to be incredibly high.
Another issue is major, but it actually matters less to us than it would have before. California has been getting its computer upgrade kinks worked out, and it has created large distortions in the weekly jobless claims reports. That is another risk to putting any emphasis on the tardy September payrolls reports.
This is not a warning of any conspiracy. This is simply a warning of latency. Investors and market participants on all sides should avoid placing very much emphasis on this report, regardless of its outcome.