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Payrolls in US add to signs of slowing growth

Payrolls in US add to signs of slowing growth

06.06.2011 9:22

The US payrolls report brought a major disappointment on Friday. In May, nonfarm payrolls rose only by 54 000, while the consensus was looking for an increase by 165 000! Also the figures of the two previous months were downwardly revised: March from 221 000 to 194 000 and April from 244 000 to 232 000. All revisions taken into account, the payrolls were by 150 000 weaker than expected. Looking at the details, private employment rose by 83 000 in May (from 251 000 in April), sharply below market expectations (170 000) and government payrolls fell by 29 000 due to a 28 000 drop in local government employment. The details of the private sector payrolls show that weakness was broad-based. Employment growth in the goods-producing sector slowed sharply (3 000 from 38 000) as manufacturing jobs unexpectedly dropped (by 5 000), while the construction sector added 2 000 jobs. In the services sector too, employment growth eased significantly (from 213 000 to 80 000). Payrolls dropped in the retail (-9 000 from 64 000), information (-1 000 from -1 000) and leisure and hospitality (-6 000 from 32 000) sectors, partly due to a reversal of the Easter recruitments. The financial sector (3 000 from -2 000), business services (44 000 from 50 000) and education and health sector (34 000 from 54 000) all added jobs in May. Temporary help payrolls, on the contrary, dropped for a second straight month (-1 000 from -2 0000). This is a worrying sign as temporary help payrolls are often a good precursor for the headline reading, which indicates that weakness might persist in the coming month(s). The household survey disappointed too as the unemployment rate jumped from 9.0% to 9.1%, while a decline to 8.9% was expected. The higher unemployment rate was due to an increase in the number of people unemployed by 167 000 to 13.914 million, but also the civilian labour force rose by 272 000 to 153.693 million. Finally, a positive sign is the increase in the number of people employed per household survey, which rose from 139.674 million to 139.779 million. Average weekly hours worked stayed unchanged at n upwardly revised 34.4, and hourly earnings rose by 1.8% Y/Y in May. After the extremely weak data of recent, this outcome provides further evidence that the US economic recovery is cooling down, as firms are hiring less new people. While this might be due to temporary factors as the supply chain disruptions due to the earthquake in Japan, there are also signs that weakness might persist in the coming months as temporary help payrolls fell for a second straight month in May. The figures of the coming months should provide more clarity whether it is just a temporary pause, or whether the trend is changing.

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