Markets Brace for Key Payrolls and Unemployment Data

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The U.S. growth engine is still moving. Unfortunately, that growth and enthusiasm and strength has started to dial down in recent weeks. We have seen weaker than expected growth in first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), weaker growth in durable goods and manufacturing data, and even a tempering of exuberance in consumer confidence. All this leads up to a big wild card for the markets and the economy ahead of this week’s key jobs reports for April.

The U.S. markets are always on edge ahead of the Labor Department’s unemployment and nonfarm payrolls report on the first Friday of each month. We will get to see a sneak-peak from ADP that signals what the private sector payrolls growth was.

For the unemployment rate itself, March’s preliminary 4.5% is expected to become 4.6% for April, per the Bloomberg consensus estimate. This can be affected by myriad issues, largely by the labor force participation rate. That participation rate in March was 63.0%.

Payrolls are actually given far more weighting by the financial markets, even if the newspapers and media often focus on the headline unemployment rate. Nonfarm payrolls were up a rather disappointing 98,000 in March, and Bloomberg is looking for 185,000 nonfarm payrolls to have been added in April. Reuters has a mean estimate of 190,000 for April.

If you back out the government jobs, there are the private sector payrolls. This was just a preliminary gain of 89,000 in March, and Bloomberg has a consensus estimate of 180,000. Reuters has a consensus estimate of 186,000 for April.

Other key Bloomberg estimates on internal metrics inside of the jobs numbers due on Friday morning:

  • Average hourly earnings are expected to be up 0.3% on the monthly reading and to be up 2.7% from a year ago.
  • Average workweek is expected to be 34.4 hours, up from 34.3 a month earlier.

Back to some pre-BLS data: investors will get to see the ADP Payrolls report at 8:15 am Wednesday. It is not perfect for an absolute reading, but the markets have grown to rely upon the ADP report for a preliminary directional bias on private sector payrolls. That bias might not have worked when the March reading showed a 263,000 gain — and Bloomberg has a 170,000 consensus estimate, versus a consensus estimate of 180,000 from Reuters.

One issue that can always act as a wild card is that there is an Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting announcement on interest rates that is due on Wednesday at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. None of the major news services are calling for any change in rates, as it might be too soon since the last hike and considering a tempering of some recent growth.

A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed that the manufacturing sector rose for the 95th consecutive month in April. The April PMI was at 54.8% in April, down 2.4 points from the March reading of 57.2%. The employment component here posted a big drop, despite still being a positive reading: The Employment Index registered 52%, a decrease of 6.9 percentage points from the March reading of 58.9%. One more look from ISM will be released for the nonmanufacturing sector on Wednesday morning.