Friday, 02 November 2018 11:51

Jobs report great as Trump, GOP enter mid-terms, but wait!

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The tale of two jobs reports.

Today, the White House and the Republicans received good news as the country heads into mid-terms on Tuesday.  According to the Department of Labor, the US gained 250,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained stable.

 

Here is how Axios reported it:

The U.S. added 250,000 jobs in October, beating the 190,000 jobs estimate from economists, the Labor Department said on Friday. Unemployment rate held at 3.7%, a nearly 50-year low, while wages grew 3.1% year-over-year, the biggest jump since 2009.

Why it matters: The final gauge of the Trump economy before the midterm elections was strong. Separately, it reinforces the Federal Reserve's case to raise interest rates one more time this year.

Details:

  • Job growth was strong in health care, manufacturing, and construction sectors.
  • Hispanic unemployment hit a record low of 4.4%, while African American unemployment ticked slightly higher to 6.2%.
  • September's jobs number was revised lower to 118,000 from 134,000, but that was offset by an upward revision in August's jobs number.
  • The Labor Department said Hurricane Michael, which made landfall during the surveying period for jobs, had "no discernible effect" on employment data in October.

The bottom line: Jason Furman, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Obama, tweeted that this was an exceptional jobs report:

I’m not seeing anything bad in this jobs report. Strong hourly wage growth, even stronger weekly wage growth, higher labor force participation, lower broader underemployment, while job growth bounced back from last month and the unemployment rate remained low.

However, Axios also reported today that despite the good numbers, all is not Ok at the corral:

Cracks are beginning to show in a booming economy that's on pace for a 10th year of continuous growth, Axios markets reporter Courtenay Brown writes.

  • Why it matters:There's plenty of good news — economists expect today's jobs report to show unemployment holding at a stunning 49-year low, for instance. (Current Reuters headline: "U.S. job growth seen accelerating; strong annual wage gain expected.") But look closer, and visible threats suggest an all-out recession could come as soon as next year.

Key economic indicators are flashing red:

  • Worker productivity is sluggish.The third quarter marked the "32nd straight quarter of yearly growth below 2%, a long and consistent stretch of anemic growth that hasn’t happened before in the post-World War II era," the WSJ reports.
  • Manufacturing activity has stalledfor the first time in two years, possibly the result of President Trump's multi-front trade war.
  • Business investment is laggardly.Rather than using their $1.2 trillion tax cut on capital spending, companies are on track for the biggest-everyear of stock buybacks, possibly reaching $1 trillion.

And U.S. economic growth is already slowing:

  • In the third quarter,GDP growth retreated to a 3.5% annual rate, down from 4.2% the prior quarter. Going forward, economists expectgrowth to hit 2.9% in the fourth quarter, and 2.5% in the first quarter of 2019.

Forecasts are all over the map — but recession is a common theme.

  • Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife Asset Management, expects a recession after 2021.
  • Mark Yusko, founder of hedge fund Morgan Creek Capital, forecasts recession next year, and puts the oddsat 100% — thanks to trade tensions.
  • “The trade rhetoric is one of the dumbest things in the history of all administrations and it will cause a global recession,” Yusko told a recentinvestment conference.

Another concern is the Fed's series of interest rate hikes, which are pushing up prices and are a leading indicator of recession:

  • According to Greene, the U.S. has slipped into recession during 10 out of the last 13 rate-hiking cycles.
  • The Fed has signaled that it will keep raising rates to keep inflation in check. That's bad news if you're a big corporation hoping to borrowon the cheap.
  • Prices for everything from rolled aluminum to cookies are on the rise, per The Wall Street Journal, after years of low inflation. “History is not on our side,” Greene said.

Among the experts forecasting a continuing slowdown going into 2020: the IMF, and Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, both former Fed heads.

The White House says it has no plans to revise its GDP forecast of 3.5% this year and a bit above 3% in 2019.

  • Kevin Hassett,chair of Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, told Axios that capital investmenthas rebounded since Trump's election, and that it will sustain growth. (In the third quarter, business investment growth slowed to 0.8% from 8.5% in the second quarter, and 11.5% in the prior quarter.)
  • Hassett told us:"It's not a 'sugar high' because when [companies] buy lots of capital goods, then it goes into GDP when it's investment, and then increases GDP when you turn the machines on and produce output."

Be smart: Growth is still healthy, but the economy is unquestionably slowing.

 

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