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US online sales and mild weather boost payrolls

US online sales and mild weather boost payrolls

9.1.2012 11:08

According to the official payrolls report, US employment growth accelerated more than expected in December. Employment rose by 200 000 in the last month of the year, more than the forecasted 155 000 increase and twice as much as in November. The November outcome was however downwardly revised from 120 000 to 100 000, while the October figure was upwardly revised from 100 000 to 112 000. Overall the net revisions were rather small (-8 000) compared to previous months. Looking at the details, private payrolls jumped by 212 000, while the public sector continued to lose jobs. Government payrolls fell by 12 000, the fourth consecutive decline, due to local governments which cut 14 000 workers. The federal government, on the contrary, added 2 000 jobs, while employment stayed unchanged in the state government. The details of the private sector show that strength was based in both goods producing (48 000 from -6 000) and service providing (164 000 from 126 000). Within the goods-producing sector, both construction payrolls (17 000 from -12 000) and manufacturing payrolls (23 000 from 1 000) picked up. Within the services sector, most of the upward surprise was based in trade and transport (90 000 from 42 000). Not only as retailers continued to hire (28 000 from 39 000), but also courier and messenger jobs increased (by 42 000), reflecting the increased online purchases from Christmas holidays and the sales period. Employment growth slowed in financial services (2 000 from 5 000), education & health (29 000 from 33 000), leisure & hospitality (21 000 from 30 000) and business services (12 000 from 19 000), but picked up in information (6 000 from -7 000) after a weak November figure. Disappointing is however the decline in temporary help (-8 000 from 11 000) as it is often a good precursor for the headline figure, but one shouldn’t draw conclusion of what is still a one-off decline. More positive news came from the household survey, as the unemployment rate dropped further, from an upwardly revised 8.7% to 8.5%, while the consensus was looking for a figure of 8.7%. The underlying picture shows that the civilian labour force dropped by 50 000 to a total level of 153.887 million and the number of people unemployed fell by 226 000 to 13.097 million. Employment increased by 176 000 to 140.790 million. Aggregate hours worked rose by 0.5% M/M to 94.8 and average weekly hours worked rose from 34.3 to 34.4. Hourly earnings rose by 0.2% M/M, in line with expectations and the previous figure was upwardly revised from -0.1% M/M to 0.0% M/M. The strong payrolls report indicates that increasing activity is supporting the labour market. The December payrolls were mainly boosted by warmer weather, which supported construction activity, and increasing popularity of online shopping, which lifted courier activity. While the strong December report is of course good news, the details show that strength was mainly due to temporary factors (sales and warm weather), which will fade over the coming months.

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