Private Sector Report Challenges Labor Department Jobs Strength

Jon C. Ogg

Last Friday’s report from the Department of Labor was so strong, with more than 200,000 payrolls created in October, that we figured the report had to be riddled with errors. If there were not errors, then things in the economy were truly much better than the media would have led you to believe during the federal government shutdown in Washington, D.C. A new report is challenging just how strong the jobs market was, and it has the same cautious ring as TrimTabs and ADP had rather than the strength of the Labor Department report.

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index fell in the month of October, despite the Labor Department’s signal of more than 200,000 new payrolls created. The index fell to 113.65 in October. This is down from 114.68 in September, and the index showed that the September number is also a downward revision.

The one saving grace may be that the Employment Trends Index figure for October was 4.9% higher than it was a year ago. The Conference Board did say that the October decline was partially due to the government shutdown.

Also, not all is negative in the report, despite our concern about the number itself. The latest job numbers were represented as showing some strengthening in the employment trend, but there is a warning. As domestic demand was weaker than expected in the third quarter, the Conference Board expects that there might be some moderation in employment growth in the coming months.

Negative contributions in the Employment Trends Index were seen in four of its eight components. Those decreasing indicators were initial claims for unemployment insurance, the consumer confidence survey’s percentage of respondents who say they find “jobs hard to get,” the ratio of involuntarily part-time to all part-time workers and job openings.