When a Strong Labor Department Jobs Report Is Treated Badly

With stocks and bonds so worried about the coming Federal Reserve rate hikes, the markets have been extremely focused on the news front around jobs. Now we have the U.S. Labor Department employment situation report for the month of May, and the number may be high enough that the markets worry about the Fed more than they cheer the good news.

Nonfarm payrolls grew by 280,000 last month, well above the Bloomberg consensus estimate of 220,000. The range of estimates was 190,000 to 289,000. Leading the gains were professional and business services, health care and leisure and hospitality. April payrolls was revised down to 221,000 from the prior 223,000 reported, and March was revised up to 199,000 from the initial 85,000 reported.

The private sector payrolls grew by 262,000 in May. Bloomberg was calling for only 215,000.

One issue that might sound odd with a stronger payrolls number is that unemployment was up 0.1% to 5.5% in May. Bloomberg was calling for that to remain static at 5.4%.

Average hourly earnings also rose 0.3%, or $0.08, in the private sector. Expectations were for a 0.2% gain.

Equity futures are treating this as “good news is bad news” because it means that Federal Reserve hawks will have a stronger case to raise interest rates sooner than Yellen and the doves may wish. This remains good news, of course, and it still seems as though the financial markets are overthinking how high rates really will rise and are thinking it could happen much faster than reality is likely to bring.

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