Recession fears ease as 280,000 jobs created in May

The raw jobs numbers that came out yesterday are a mixed bag of good and bad news.  Labor force participation up, employment up, wages up, but the "official" unemployment rate also went up, and the strong gains in jobs numbers – 280,000 for the month – suggest that the economy will be no better than last year.

James Pethokoukis:

That negative first-quarter GDP report now seems far less worrisome and far more an outlier than it did initially. Recently Goldman Sachs said “that given the uncertainty around GDP it is better to focus on other indicators—especially employment—to gauge the cumulative progress of the recovery and the remaining amount of slack.” By that measure, the U.S. economic recovery continues to plow forward after a slight early-year stumble. Nonfarm payrolls increased 280,000 in May, the largest gain since December, the Labor Department said this morning. Although the unemployment rate rose to 5.5% from a near seven-year low of 5.4% in April that was because nearly 400,000 people entered the labor force, boosting the participation rate up to 62.9%, from 62.8%. So unemployment rose rose for a good reason, as the employment rate also ticked up.

Even wage growth looked a bit peppier. The increase in average hourly earnings nudged the year-on-year gain to 2.3%, the largest rise since August 2013, according to Reuters. And with inflation low, these nominal wage gains are better than they first appear.

“Any doubts about lingering economic weakness in the second quarter, at least as it relates to the labor market, were certainly erased” by this report, said BTIG strategist Dan Greenhaus in a note. And this from Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics: “The 280,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in May, which was well above the 225,000 consensus forecast but bang in line with our own call, adds to the evidence that the US economy is regaining momentum after another winter slowdown. … Only 24 hours later, the IMF’s suggestion that the Fed should wait until 2016 looks very dated.”

The other side of the trade: Job growth this year has been a bit weaker than last year, 217,000 to 229,00. So while the economy may be stronger than what GDP suggests, it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than last year.

The uptick in labor force participation is welcome, but the number is still far below the average over the last three decades.  Wages are still fairly stagnant, and the labor market in general still shows a lot of slack.

Perhaps the big takeaway from the jobs numbers this month is that fears of a recession following the negative growth in the first quarter are eased as other economic indicators also point to strong second-quarter growth. 

The raw jobs numbers that came out yesterday are a mixed bag of good and bad news.  Labor force participation up, employment up, wages up, but the "official" unemployment rate also went up, and the strong gains in jobs numbers – 280,000 for the month – suggest that the economy will be no better than last year.

James Pethokoukis:

That negative first-quarter GDP report now seems far less worrisome and far more an outlier than it did initially. Recently Goldman Sachs said “that given the uncertainty around GDP it is better to focus on other indicators—especially employment—to gauge the cumulative progress of the recovery and the remaining amount of slack.” By that measure, the U.S. economic recovery continues to plow forward after a slight early-year stumble. Nonfarm payrolls increased 280,000 in May, the largest gain since December, the Labor Department said this morning. Although the unemployment rate rose to 5.5% from a near seven-year low of 5.4% in April that was because nearly 400,000 people entered the labor force, boosting the participation rate up to 62.9%, from 62.8%. So unemployment rose rose for a good reason, as the employment rate also ticked up.

Even wage growth looked a bit peppier. The increase in average hourly earnings nudged the year-on-year gain to 2.3%, the largest rise since August 2013, according to Reuters. And with inflation low, these nominal wage gains are better than they first appear.

“Any doubts about lingering economic weakness in the second quarter, at least as it relates to the labor market, were certainly erased” by this report, said BTIG strategist Dan Greenhaus in a note. And this from Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics: “The 280,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in May, which was well above the 225,000 consensus forecast but bang in line with our own call, adds to the evidence that the US economy is regaining momentum after another winter slowdown. … Only 24 hours later, the IMF’s suggestion that the Fed should wait until 2016 looks very dated.”

The other side of the trade: Job growth this year has been a bit weaker than last year, 217,000 to 229,00. So while the economy may be stronger than what GDP suggests, it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than last year.

The uptick in labor force participation is welcome, but the number is still far below the average over the last three decades.  Wages are still fairly stagnant, and the labor market in general still shows a lot of slack.

Perhaps the big takeaway from the jobs numbers this month is that fears of a recession following the negative growth in the first quarter are eased as other economic indicators also point to strong second-quarter growth.