The US payrolls report confirmed that payrolls continue to grow, but without accelerating. In November, payrolls rose by 125 000, 5 000 less than expected, but the figures for October and September were revised higher by a cumulative 70 000. In a broader perspective, Q4 payrolls (based on two months) increased on average 110 000, which compares to 147 000 in Q3 and 97 000 in Q2. So, one can discuss whether the glass is half full or half empty.
The details show a balanced number of positive and negative features. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 8.6% from 9% previously. The drop is though probably unsustainable, as a large part of it was due to previous unemployed people that fell out of the labour force, probably because they are discouraged and stopped looking for a job. Retail payrolls surprised on the upside, which is a positive sign for the all-important Christmas shopping season and might be an indication that households are spending again. Temporary Help Agency payrolls continued to show a 22 000 trend-like increase, which is promising as this sector usually leads overall payrolls. Another positive feature is that the overall increase in payrolls is slowed by ongoing public job cutting or in other words, the private sector labour market shows a bit more vigour than the overall labour market.
However, there were a number of negative points too. Payrolls in the goods producing sector, the most cyclical one, were weak (down). The diffusion indices, which measure the breadth of the advance, show a decelerating pace. Aggregate Weekly hours worked fell 0.1% M/M, as did the average hourly earnings, which weighs on disposable income and might affect consumption negatively.