How the Markets Are Bracing for Unemployment and Payrolls

Jon C. Ogg

The financial markets will get to see the report on payrolls and the employment situation from the U.S. Department of Labor this Friday. This is one of the most closely watched economic reports of them all. We will also get several preview reports ahead of the formal Labor Department report.

Note that there is variation in consensus estimates from news agency to news agency. Investors and economists also should understand that these numbers are subject to revision, and the pre-readings might create a directional bias change.

Bloomberg has estimates of 168,000 for nonfarm payrolls and 170,000 for private sector payrolls in September. The prior first-look reports from August, which are likely to be revised, were 151,000 on nonfarm payrolls and 126,000 on private sector payrolls. Dow Jones is calling for nonfarm payrolls to be 165,000.

The official unemployment rate is projected to be 4.8%, compared with last month’s 4.9% reading, according to Bloomberg, but Dow Jones currently has the estimate pegged to be flat at 4.9%. This formal number sounds as though it would be the most important reading of all, but the number’s variations can be misleading, depending on the labor force participation rate.

Average hourly earnings were initially reported as up 0.1% in August, and the Bloomberg consensus for that reading is a gain of 0.3% in September. Dow Jones is calling for hourly earnings to have risen 0.2% in September.

The average workweek was 34.3 hours in August and is projected by Bloomberg to have ticked up to 34.4 hours.

Wednesday, October 5 will bring the ADP payrolls report. This aims to preempt the Labor Department report. While the numbers are not always indicative, what they have been good at doing is setting the directional tone for revisions and unofficial estimates. The August ADP Payrolls report was 177,000, and those estimates are 170,000 from both Bloomberg and Dow Jones alike.

Thursday’s last-look reports will include the Challenger Job Cuts Report (32,188 for August) and weekly jobless claims (254,000 the prior week). Jobless claims are at their longest sub-300,000 reading since 1970 or so.

Between now and then, we also have sub-index readings that will show employment measurement as well. These include the PMI Manufacturing Index and the ISM Manufacturing Index on Monday morning, followed by Wednesday’s two reports from the PMI Services Index and then the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index.

There you have it. Stay tuned.