September Employment Report

Additions to payrolls were light in September. Per the reopened Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers added 148,000 new jobs to end the third quarter. This follows August’s positively revised tally of 193,000 (originally 169,000). For what it is worth, the unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent in the prior period.

Many of the internals of the release do not make the headline figures any more appealing. Average hourly earnings ticked up just 0.1 percent. This $0.03 increase puts the average hourly earnings for all employees at $24.09; year-over-year, the figure is up $0.49 or 2.1 percent. The average workweek for all employees on nonfarm payrolls did not change from last month’s 34.5 hours which is unchanged from September 2012.

To show Atlas is fair, we can look at a few of the recent developments that are relatively positive. The long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) fell by 156,000 in September and by 725,000 in the last 12 months, putting their total number at about 4.1 million, representing nearly 37 percent of all the jobless. We might see this as a positive only because it does not appear that many of them became so discouraged in seeking employment that they left the labor force altogether. For the month, the overall labor force participation rate managed to stay even at 63.2.

It took some digging to find gold in the employment data, and it may only be pyrite. The jobs market remains tepid at best. This weakness coupled with the negative impact the government shutdown likely made on the country’s output should delay the Federal Reserve’s taper schedule into at least the first quarter of 2014, which could mean Ben Bernanke will not even get to start unwinding all he has wound. (by C. Cox)