US labour market – not as strong as in 2014

Last week, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the August – Employment Situation – which provides some guide as to the health of the US labour market. The degree to which the guide is very clear is another question altogether. Total non-farm employment rose by only 173,000 and the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent, which on the face of it sounds like a positive development. However, the employment growth was well below the expectation (although the banking economists are rarely close) and deeper analysis shows that the sectors that lead the cycle up and down and therefore provide a signal for the future movement of other sectors, have slowed quite significantly and are growing at 2012 levels when the US was still mired in the GFC downturn. I had a brief look at the gross flows data from the US this morning and the fall in unemployment is being driven by larger outflows from unemployment into employment while flows out of employment into unemployment are much smaller. There are other uncertainties relating to hours of work are growing faster than employment in persons, indicating that firms are now bringing their hoarded labour back into more intensive use. In this blog, I report on what is happening with the hiring and firing rates in the US to broaden our understanding of how things stand at present. The conclusion certainly doesn’t add any weight to the claim that the US Federal Reserve Bank should raise interest rates.

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