Article / 06 June 2016 at 12:30 GMT

Daily Shot: What's going on with the US labour market? Team / Saxo Bank
  • US labour market weakness hits services sector
  • Wage growth back below 2.5% (year-over-year)
  • Average weekly hours declining as well

By Walter Kurtz*

We begin with Friday's rather dismal US payrolls report which to a large extent represents a latent effect of the US dollar rally over the past couple of years. On a relative basis, hiring Americans has become more expensive. An elevated level of uncertainty, driven in part by risks associated with the monetary policy as well as the presidential elections, has not helped.

Let's look at some trends in the labour markets.

1. The job market's weakness has now spread to the services sector.

2. After a strong showing over a previous couple of months, US labour force participation has turned lower. 

3. Even as the headline unemployment rate (U-3) declined to lows not seen since 2007, a broader measure of unemployment, which includes marginally attached workers plus those employed part-time for economic reasons (U-6), has stalled. 

Varying measures
Below is the ratio of the headline jobless rate to the broad (U-6) unemployment over the past couple of decades. While fewer people are filing for unemployment benefits, the health of the broader labour market has significant room for improvement. 

Labour markets
4. Related to the above, here is part-time employment for "economic reasons".
Part time work
5. US manufacturing jobs growth has worsened again on a year-over-year basis. 

6. Wage growth is back below 2.5% (year-over-year). Unless the non-demographic component of labour force participation begins to climb again, it's difficult to see a significant jump in hourly earnings growth. It is worth pointing out, however, that given slow inflation, real wage growth in the US is reasonable relative to a number of other developed economies. 

Wage growth
7. The next chart shows the average weekly hours worked by US employees on a year-over-year basis. Even with a positive hourly wage growth (above), declining hours could mean less cash in households' pockets.

Weekly hours
8. For what it's worth, the headline unemployment rate is now below the "Natural Rate of Unemployment". According to classical economic theory, inflation should begin to rise at this point. But given some of the labour market challenges shown above, price increases – outside the recent increase in energy and agricultural commodities – should remain benign.


Separately, the ISM Services PMI weakened in May. This provides more evidence that the soft patch in the US economy is not limited to manufacturing and energy. 

The ISM Non-manufacturing Employment Index is consistent with Fridays's poor payrolls report (above).
Below is the ISM services sector new orders index. Is this consistent with the projected 2.5%-3.0% US GDP growth in Q2?
New orders
 — Edited by Michael McKenna

* Walter Kurtz is an alias

** This is an abridged version of the Daily Shot. To subscribe to the full version, link to the Daily Shot and select the appropriate command. E-mail addresses are never shared with anyone.


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