What to Look for in January Nonfarm Payroll Report

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Friday morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its monthly Employment Situation Report for January. Analysts are looking for nonfarm payrolls to rise by 188,000 and for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 5%.

In December, nonfarm payrolls grew by a sharp 292,000, and private sector payrolls were also strong at 275,000. Average hourly earnings were flat and the average workweek was 34.5 hours.

For January, private sector payrolls are expected to rise by 180,000 jobs, hourly earnings are forecast to rise by 0.3% and the average workweek number is expected to remain flat. The estimates were gathered by Econoday and published at Bloomberg News. The highest estimates to date call for an increase of 215,000 in nonfarm payrolls and 206,000 in private sector payrolls.

What likely will stand out in Friday’s report is that average hourly earnings are expected to rise by 0.3% to $25.24. That matters right now because the Federal Reserve is looking for any and every data point that it can find that helps in its campaign to raise interest rates. Inflation is tame due to oil, so the Fed is looking elsewhere.

Dow Jones is calling for unemployment to remain flat at 5.0% as well. Dow Jones has a slightly different view of nonfarm payrolls, with its consensus estimate at 185,000.

Another interesting data point is the labor force participation rate, which was last seen a tad higher at 62.6%. This number remains stubbornly low.

On Thursday, weekly jobless claims (also from the BLS) rose to 285,000, compared with a consensus estimate of 280,000. In the prior week, new claims totaled 278,000. Note that the weekly claims have been rising and are getting very close to the 300,000 level again.

On Wednesday, ADP reported a gain of 205,000 jobs, 15,000 above the consensus estimate but well below the December total of 257,000.