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US: Employment growth came to a halt in August

US: Employment growth came to a halt in August

05.09.2011 9:55

After a slightly stronger than expected payrolls report in July, the August report brought a major disappointment. In August, employment growth came to a standstill, while the consensus was looking for an increase by 68 000. Also the figures of the previous two months were downwardly revised: July from 117 000 to 85 000 and June from 46 000 to 20 000. All revisions taken into account, the payrolls were 126 000 below expectations!! Looking at the details, private employment rose slightly, by 17 000, which was totally offset by a decline by 17 000 in government payrolls. Weakness in the public sector was based in the local (-20 000) and federal (-2 000) government, while the state government added 5 000 jobs. Within the private sector, payrolls fell by 3 000 in goods-producing, while they increased only by 20 000 in the services sector. In goods-producing, both manufacturing (-3 000) and construction (-5 000) payrolls dropped in August. The details of the services sector show that weakness was based in trade and transport (-8 000 from 27 000) and information (-48 000 from -3 000), due to the Verizon strike, which dropped about 45 000 workers out of the payrolls in August. Employment increased in the financial sector (3 000 from -7 000), in business services (unchanged at 28 000), education & health (34 000 from 46 000) and leisure & hospitality (2 000 from 12 000). Temporary help, which is often a good precursor for the headline figure, rose slightly (by 5 000 from 1 000), the biggest increase in five months. The household survey showed that the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 9.1%, which was in line with expectations, but the details are not too bad. The number of people unemployed rose by 36 000 to a total level of 13.967 million, while the civilian labour force increased by 336 000 to 153.594 million. Also employment increased, for the first time in three months, by 331 000 to 139.627 million. Average weekly hours worked eased from 34.3 to 34.2 and hourly earnings rose only by 1.9% Y/Y (from 2.3% Y/Y), which was disappointing as an increase by 2.2% Y/Y was expected. It is certainly a poor payrolls report, not only for August, but also the revisions of the previous months, which were mainly based in the government sector. The Verizon strike pushed the headline figure somewhat lower. Nevertheless, also apart from this special factor, the report was extremely poor, providing further evidence that the US economy is at the brink of a new recession and increasing pressure on the Fed and the Obama administration to take further measures to support growth and spur employment.

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