Private-sector payrolls rose 223,000 in June, a touch less than expected, based on Econoday.com’s consensus forecast. That’s a respectable gain, but it’s well below the previous month’s 250,000 advance, which was revised lower in today’s release. On its face, the latest results continue to paint an upbeat profile, but the numbers come with caveats, including the mild but ongoing deceleration in the year-over-year increase.
Private payrolls increased by nearly 2.5% for the year through last month. That’s a healthy trend, if it holds up. But there are some issues to consider, such as the fact that the revised figures show that the economy generated 60,000 fewer jobs in April and May than previously estimated. Meanwhile, the annual pace of growth continues to slip, as you can see in the chart below. The latest round of deceleration is mild, and so it’s premature to read too much into the softer run of numbers. Nonetheless, the annual increase in June is the slowest rise since last November. The difference between now and then is that the rate of growth is easing rather than rising, as it was late last year.
This isn’t a concern at the moment, at least not a major concern. It’s normal to see a variety of growth rates over a period of time–even during a solid period of expansion. But if the deceleration continues in the months ahead, the weaker trend will raise new questions about the economic outlook.
Based on the numbers to date, however, it’s reasonable to assume that moderate growth will prevail in the labor market and the economy overall. One reason for keeping the faith: Today’s update on weekly jobless claims ticked higher but remain close to a 15-year low. New filings for unemployment benefits rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 for the week through June 27. That’s near the 262,000 level in late-April, which marks the lowest number of claims since 2000. In year-over-year terms, claims are down by 10%, which suggests a moderately strong expansion is intact for the labor market.
As for private payrolls, a 2%-plus annual rise is certainly a healthy pace, if it endures. For perspective, the current 2.46% year-over-year advance through June is fractionally above the strongest rise during the expansionary phase before the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Based on what we know today, it’s likely that the labor market will continue to grow at a solid rate for the near term.
But there are a few cracks in the trend. It’s unclear at this stage if this is noise or an early warning. Meanwhile, if you’re inclined to play the guessing game of what it means for the timing of the first Fed rate hike, one can argue that today’s results provide support for anticipating a delay for the start of monetary timing.
“If anything, it buys the Fed a little more time before the first rate hike, bond manager Wilmer Stith at Wilmington Trust tells Reuters. “It puts September a little more in question but we still think they move in September.”