Jobs Grow 304K in January, December Revised Way Down

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Non-farm payroll numbers continue to astound! The monthly read for the Employment Situation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) came out this morning, and results were once again stellar – 304K new jobs were created in January, well above the 170K or so expected. The Unemployment Rate ticked up again to 4.0%, the first time in many months we’ve seen that headline with a 4-handle on it.

Apparently, the partial government shutdown did not have a negative affect on monthly jobs totals, and indeed, with part-time employment in the private sector ramping up for the month, it’s quite possible the shutdown actually helped escalate overall job growth, as furloughed federal workers sought part-time employment to make their household ends meet. The private sector brought in 296K of the total job gains for January.

Within the report, there were direct references to the shutdown – which last 5 weeks from late December to late January – mentioning it had “no discernible impact” on monthly labor force tallies. What may be important to parse here is that this BLS report comes from two separate surveys: the Establishment Survey, which showed all the furloughed workers remaining on payrolls last month, and the Household Survey, which documented 175K workers temporarily laid off may have led to the uptick in the Unemployment Rate.

However, what one hand gives the other sometimes takes away: the revision to December’s total BLS jobs picture came way down – from an initially reported 312K for the month to 222K today. This is one of the largest month-over-month corrections we have ever seen in this data. November revisions actually went up by 20K to 196K new jobs. This is a good reason to explain why we often like to rely on the 3-month moving average, which as of this morning is 241K per month – still simply outstanding jobs growth. Analysts usually cite a run rate of around 100K jobs per month needed to keep overall employment growing.

Average Hourly Earnings cooled off from the past few months, however, rising 0.1% in the month. This is down from the +0.3% reads we’d begun to grow accustomed to seeing. Year over year, Average Hourly Earnings are up 3.2%, which is more in-line with expectations.

But Labor Force Participation pushed up to 63.2%, after lagging at sub-63% for a substantial length of time. In fact, this morning’s Labor Force Participation number is the highest we’ve seen since September 2013.

So even with the major downward revision for last month and “rising” Unemployment, any way you slice it, these are consistently robust labor force numbers. Of course, they don’t really address job quality as much as job quantity, but generally speaking, we haven’t seen employment metrics this good in about a generation. It remains the main engine for U.S. economic growth currently.

Q4 Earnings Roundup

Exxon Mobil XOM , prior to its Q4 earnings report release this morning was rated a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), easily outperformed estimates on both top and bottom lines: $1.51 per share trounced the $1.08 in the Zacks consensus, while $71.89 billion in revenues outperformed by 3%. The death of the oil & gas industry have been greatly exaggerated (to paraphrase Mark Twain). For more on XOM’s earnings, click here.

Exxon competitor Chevron CVX , a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company ahead of its Q4 report, also topped forecasts in both sales and earnings: $2.06 per share surpassed the $1.87 analysts were looking for, on revenues of $42.35 billion that were 1.7% higher than anticipated. For more on CVX’s earnings, click here.

Mark Vickery

Senior Editor

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