Private-sector payrolls rose less than expected in May, according to this morning’s ADP Employment Report. Companies added a net 179,000 jobs to the labor market in seasonally adjusted terms—well below the expected 210,000 gain based on the consensus forecast. The monthly comparison is a disappointment, but it looks like noise when you consider that ADP’s tally of payrolls for last month still shows growth at roughly 2% on a year-over-year basis.
In fact, today’s ADP numbers tell us that the annual trend improved ever so slightly to the fastest pace since last October (when we look at the percentage changes out to the second decimal point). True, that doesn’t mean much and so the progress is marginal. The more reliable conclusion is that nothing much has changed in today’s report. But that’s still good news. A roughly 2% gain over the previous year is a decent growth rate and one that’s in line with what we’ve seen over the past year.
As for the monthly analysis, “job growth moderated in May,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which produces the data in collaboration with ADP. “The slowing in growth was concentrated in professional/business services and companies with 50-999 employees. The job market has yet to break out from the pace of growth that has prevailed over the last three years.”
Fair enough, although it’s also true that the pace of growth isn’t deteriorating either, based on the annual trend. Today’s monthly slowdown may be a signal that the recent jump in optimism on the outlook for stronger job creation was overblown. But it’s also reasonable to assume that we’re not on the cusp of a material deceleration in the rate of growth for payrolls. Instead, today’s report suggests that the labor market is growing at a moderate pace, much as it has been in recent history.