Saturday, 18 August, 2018

US Jobs Report: Oil, Gas Jobs Added in February

Chicago President Charles Evans participates in a moderated discussion in Zurich Switzerland Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Evans participates in discussion in Zurich Thomson Reuters
Lindsey Cook | 10 March, 2018, 01:41

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 313,000 in February, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

The US jobs market has now added an average of 242,000 jobs each month over the past three months.

Wall Street wants to know if hourly pay moderated or whether wage pressures continue to build. "Wage growth", says Bankrate.com senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick, "is the most important aspect of tomorrow's jobs report".

The unemployment rate has remained unchanged since December at 4.1 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.

"The gain in average hourly earnings of 2.6% over the past year is less-than-stellar for workers, but also helps to calm inflation fears", Hamrick said.

Wage growth is watched closely by the Fed as evidence of the labour market's strength, and at 2.6 percent year over year remains "disappointing..." The theory is that low unemployment will create more competition for jobs, forcing employers to boost compensation to attract new workers.

The news comes on the heels of reports that US consumers have also enjoyed the largest surge in disposable income since 2015. Yet barely a month after the tax cuts became law, investors shifted their focus to the potential consequences: Faster growth that might intensify inflation and lead the Fed to accelerate its rate hikes.

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"The February employment report was unambiguously strong, confirming that the USA labor market is on fire", said Michelle Girard, chief US economist at NatWest Markets.

But, the Labor Department noted that gains in the clothing and general merchandise retail sectors, which added 33,000 new positions, suffered some distortion that made the gains appear stronger. Many more people are working, including people who hadn't even been in the labor force.

Higher-paying, blue-collar industries reported some of the biggest increases.

The other side of this debate might be called the "let it run" camp, who argue that a lot of good things might happen if the Fed and other policymakers move patiently and see whether some of the damage done by the 2008 recession might fix itself in a sufficiently hot economy.

The economy has expanded for 104 straight months, or almost nine years, the third-largest expansion on record, and hiring often declines as recessions fade further into the past.

Anecdotal reports suggest worker pay is indeed beginning to rise.

But it offered "a false picture of a "Goldilocks" economy" for financial markets, she said in a research note. That rhetoric was muddied in January when the black unemployment rate spiked.

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