NFP: Another in a long series of disappointments

As we expected, yesterday’s NFP was another stinkeroo. The 121k number was significantly below the 200k consensus, and far, far away from some of the myopically optimistic upside outliers.

Let’s delve beneath the surface a bit, first via Barron’s Alan Abelson:

Philippa Dunne and Doug Henwood, our favorite parsers of the monthly
employment reports, put it: "This was a weak report, with few signs of
strength under the surface." They note that the 121,000 slots added
brought the average monthly gain in the second quarter to a meager
108,000, sharply below the first quarter’s 176,000 and even more
sharply below the long-term average of 236,000.

A full 25% of the gain was from government hiring, mostly local and
state . . .

A good chunk of the 75,000 new jobs from private services were
from health care and the bar and restaurant sector. That prompts our
jolly duo to speculate that "maybe our new economic model is one in
which vigorous eating and drinking inspire a lot of doctor visits,
which reinvigorate us for a fresh round of eating and drinking."
drink to that.

Unemployment held steady in June, at 4.6%. But a glance at the data
in the report reveals the percentage of people who want a job but can’t
get one edged up to 5.8% of the labor force from 5.3% in May
. If you
toss in the number of folks who work part time even though they’d
rather be working full time
, the percentage rises to 8.7%, from 7.9%
the month before." (emphasis added)

So not only was the top line poor, but the data points touted as strong — primarily, the low unemployment number — was lousy also.

Jared Bernstein of EPI provides some insight into why employment growth has been slowing:

"An important hint from today’s report, for example, shows that employment in residential construction fell 6,800 over the past two months, the sector’s first back-to-back monthly losses since the spring of 2001. Thus far this year, residential construction employment is up 7,000, compared to an increase of 20,000 over the same six-month period last year. And while employment in real estate was up 5,000 last month, job growth among credit intermediaries and insurance carriers—so-called "downstream industries" from the housing sector—has been notably flat over the past few months. In other words, there are many connections between the housing sector and other sectors in the job market, and the cooling of that sector has far-reaching implications."

Regular readers of The Big Picture will no doubt recognize this line of thinking.

The bottom line is that this cycle — artificially driven by government stimulus — is coming to the end of its unnatural life.  Look for a return to the prior period of flat growth and even weaker job creation — at least until the next round of Rate Cuts restarts the real estate machinary . . . 


Get Shorty
Barron’s MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006

Slow job growth in second quarter reflects pace of overall economy
Jared Bernstein with research assistance from Yulia Fungard
EPI, July 7, 2006

NFP: much ado about very little
The Big Picture, Friday, July 07, 2006 | 06:45 AM

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Psychology

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NFP: much ado about very little

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Debunking One of the Worst Ideas in Economics

This is scheduled to disappear from Yahoo  soon — I wanted to capture it before it went away. Its a criticque of Supply Side economics by Charles Wheelan, former US columnist for the Economist, and at present an economics and public policy professor at the University of Chicago and visiting prof at Dartmouth College. Wheelan is the author of Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.

Debunking One of the Worst Ideas in Economics
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

"In this column, I’m focusing on bad economics. In fact, I’m going to write about what I consider to be the two worst economic ideas — or at least ideas that pass as economics, though both have been thoroughly repudiated by nearly all credible thinkers.

When I say worst, I don’t mean the most outlandish (e.g. stock prices are controlled by aliens) because those ideas usually collapse of their own weight. Rather, the most pernicious bad ideas in economics are those that have a ring of truth. They’re hard to debunk because they have a certain intuitive appeal. As a result, they stick around, providing bogus intellectual cover for bad policy, year after year, decade after decade.

For the sake of political balance, I’ll skewer a favorite of the right in this column, and then a favorite of the left in my next piece.

Read More

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