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US payrolls confirm the improvement in the labour

US payrolls confirm the improvement in the labour

12.3.2012 11:04

In February, US nonfarm payrolls continued to surprise on the upside of expectations. Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 227 000, slightly stronger than expected (210 000) and the previous two figures were upwardly adjusted. The January outcome was significantly upwardly revised (from 243 000 to 284 000), while the December figure was revised from 203 000 to 223 000. All revisions taken into account, the payrolls beat market expectations by 78 000, which means a strong report, but not an exceptional one as was the case in January. Looking at the details, private employment jumped by 233 000, which is also slightly stronger than expected (225 000), but significantly lower than the 21-month high reached in January (285 000). Government payrolls dropped slightly (-6 000 from -1 000) due to layoffs in the federal government (-7 000) and state government (-1 000), while the local government added 2 000 jobs. Within the private sector, the cooling in employment growth was entirely based in the goods-producing sector (24 000 from 83 000), while hiring slightly accelerated in the services sector (209 000 from 202 000). Within goods-producing, employment dropped in the construction sector (-13 000 from 21 000), which was probably due to weather effects. The weather was extremely mild in both January and February, but had less effect in the February data. Hiring also slowed in the manufacturing sector from 52 000 to 31 000, but please note that the January gain was exceptionally strong. Within the services sector, retail trade disappointed falling by 7 000, after strong gains over the previous months. Weakness was mainly based in department stores and general merchandise. Strength, on the contrary, was based in education & health (71 000 from 37 000), leisure and hospitality (44 000 from 46 000), business services (82 000 from 76 000) and the financial sector (6 000 from -1 000), while also transportation, remained strong. The information sector lost again jobs, but at a slower pace than in January (-1 000 from -20 000). Finally, also positive news came from temporary help, which is often a good precursor for the overall trend in payrolls. Temporary help jumped by 45 000 (from 32 000), the biggest increase in several years. The household survey remained strong too, although less than in the previous months. The unemployment rate held steady at 8.3% in February, as the civilian labour force grew by 476 000 to a total level of 154.871 million, while unemployment picked slightly up (by 48 000 to a total level of 12.806 million). Employment rose too, by 428 000 to 142.065 million. Aggregate hours worked rose by 0.2% M/M to 95.7, while average weekly hours worked stayed again unchanged 34.5. Earnings continued to increase only very gradually, rising by 0.1% M/M, while also the previous figure was downwardly revised, from 0.2% M/M to 0.1% M/M. Already for three months now, the payrolls continue to growth by more than 200 000, which are decent figures and confirm that the labour market is improving. The January figures were probably boosted by warm weather, but we believe that this factor has faded in February. Therefore, we can now say quite sure that the US labour market is convincingly improving.

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