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Trading  | April 6, 2018

Going into today’s payroll number, the whisper number was for a substantial miss because as Deutsche Bank noted this morning,” consensus estimate has overestimated the initial March nonfarm payrolls print in four of the last five years by an average of 62k.” Well, that almost exactly how much the consensus estimate of 185K was missed by, because in March, the BLS reported that only 103K jobs were added, a 3 sigma miss to consensus, and roughly 66% drop from February’s upward revised 320K.

As shown in the chart below, this was the weakest payrolls month since exactly one year ago: March 2017.

The print, as noted, was a 3-sigma miss to consensus.

This time the seasonal adjustment was not a factor:

There was a reason for the miss however: as Goldman warned yesterday, inclement weather kept many away from their jobs; in fact, according to the BLS 159K Americans were unable to work due to weather.

Labor force participation dipped fractionally, from 63.0% to 62.9% as the number of people Employed (per the Household Survey) was barely changed (from 155.215K to 155.178K) as the labor force shrank modestly as well. The number of Americans not in the labor force increased by 323K to 95.335K, just in case there is any confusion why there is no wage growth.

And while the headline payroll number may have been a miss following major prior revisions (January was revised down from +239,000 to +176,000, February was revised up from +313,000 to +326,000, for a net 50,000 fewer jobs than previously reported), what markets really cared about was the hourly earnings, which at 0.3% M/M and 2.7% came precisely in line as expected, and above the 0.1% and 2.6% in February, respectively.

There was some disappointment in the unemployment rate, which remained unchanged at 4.1%, missing expectations of a drop to 4.0%.

Some more details from the report:

Total nonfarm payroll employment edged up by 103,000 in March, following a large gain in February (+326,000). In March, employment grew in manufacturing, health care, and mining.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised down from +239,000 to +176,000, and the change for February was revised up from +313,000 to +326,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 50,000 less than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged 202,000 over the last 3 months.

  • In March, employment in manufacturing rose by 22,000, with all of the gain in the durable goods component.  Employment in fabricated metal products increased over the month (+9,000). Over the year, manufacturing has added 232,000 jobs; the durable goods component accounted for about three-fourths of the jobs added.
  • In March, health care added 22,000 jobs, about in line with its average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. Employment continued to trend up over the month in ambulatory health care services (+16,000) and hospitals (+10,000).
  • Employment in mining increased by 9,000 in March, with gains occurring in support activities for mining (+6,000) and in oil and gas extraction (+2,000). Mining employment has risen by 78,000 since a recent low in October 2016.
  • Employment in professional and business services continued to trend up in March (+33,000) and has risen by 502,000 over the year.
  • Retail trade employment changed little in March (-4,000), after increasing by 47,000 in February. In March, employment declined by 13,000 in general merchandise stores, offsetting a gain of the same size in February. Over the year, employment in retail trade has shown little net change.
  • In March, employment in construction also changed little (-15,000), following a large gain in February (+65,000).
  • Employment changed little over the month in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours in March. In manufacturing, the workweek edged down by 0.1 hour to 40.9 hours; overtime edged down by 0.1 hour to 3.6 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged down by 0.1 hour to 33.7 hours.

And last, but certainly not least, the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 8 cents to $26.82. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 71 cents, or 2.7 percent. Average hourly earnings for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 4 cents to $22.42 in March.


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