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US economy heading for a strong start of the year

US economy heading for a strong start of the year

6.2.2012 9:19

Another strong payrolls report surprised friend & foe! In January, US nonfarm payrolls jumped by 243 000 beating even the most optimistic Bloomberg expectations. The December figure was slightly upwardly revised from 200 000 to 203 000, while the November outcome was adjusted from 100 000 to 157 000. All revisions taken into account, the payrolls came out 163 000 above market expectations! Looking at the details, private employment increased by 257 000, the biggest jump since April last year, while government payrolls fell for a fifth consecutive month. Within the public sector, layoffs were based in the local (-11 000) and federal (-6 000) government, while the state government hired 3 000 additional workers. Within the private sector, job growth accelerated in both goodsproducing (81 000 from 71 000) and service providing (176 000 from 149 000).

Strength in goods-producing was broadly based as the manufacturing sector added 50 000 jobs, up from 32 000 in December, while hiring in the construction sector slowed from 31 000 to 21 000. Within the services sector, trade and transport continued to flourish rising by 37 000, while the December figure was downwardly revised from 90 000 to 29 000, due to a revision of the courier job count. Only the information (-13 000) and financial (-5 000) sector cut jobs during the first month of the year, while employment growth picked up in business services (70 000 from 63 000), education & health (36 000 from 28 000) and leisure & hospitality (44 000 from 19 000). Temporary help, which is seen as a good precursor for the headline figure, picked up from 8 000 (revised from – 8 000) to 20 000, adding to the encouraging overall picture. The household survey added to the positive news as the unemployment rate continued to edge lower, falling from 8.5% to 8.3%, while the consensus was looking for an unchanged figure. The US unemployment rate is now at its lowest level in nearly 3 years. Also here, the underlying picture is positive as the civilian labour force grew by 508 000 to a total level of 154.395 million, while the number of people unemployed fell by 339 000 to 12.758 million. Employment continued to increase, rising by 847 000 to 141.637 million. Aggregate hours worked rose by 0.2% M/M to 95.5, while average weekly hours worked stayed unchanged at 34.5. Average hourly earnings rose slightly by 0.2% M/M, in line with expectations. Last month, much of the strength could be related to several seasonal factors, but now it is clear that the underlying picture has strengthened. It is a strong report both in the headline figure and in the details, providing further evidence that the US economy is gathering pace. While Fed Chairman Bernanke seems to be in favour of more QE, opposition will certainly grow as the labour market is now showing more and more signs of sustained improvement.

After hovering sideways for several months, the US non-manufacturing sector finally gathered pace. The non-manufacturing ISM made an impressive rebound, jumping from 53.0 to 56.8, the highest level in nearly one year. The details are encouraging too with strength led by business activity (59.5 from 55.9), new orders (59.4 from 54.6), employment (57.4 from 49.8) and new export orders (56.5 from 51.0). But also backlog of orders and imports improved slightly. Supplier deliveries, inventory change and inventory sentiment weakened slightly. Over the previous months, the US non-manufacturing ISM showed little momentum, but this is finally an encouraging sign that the services sector is picking up too and the US recovery is becoming more broad-based.

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