Weekly Economic Release Summary: Labor Force Growth Is Now Outpacing Employment Growth

Steven Hansen profile picture
Steven Hansen


  • The BLS job growth this month was light due to the GM strike.
  • Still, the household survey added 325,000 people to the labor force - this means only two thirds of the increased workforce found a job.
  • The delta between the labor force and jobs growth is now growing after declining for several years.

The major release this week was the employment numbers for October.

Highlights of our analysis:

  • The year-over-year rate of growth for employment slowed this month (red line on the graph below). The year-over-year growth rate is below the rate of growth one year ago. This is a year-over-year analysis which has no seasonality issues.

  • Economic intuitive sectors of employment mixed.
  • This month's report internals (comparing household to establishment data sets) weakly correlated with the household survey showing seasonally adjusted employment growing 241,000 vs the headline establishment number expanding 128,000. The point here is that part of the headlines are from the household survey (such as the unemployment rate) and part is from the establishment survey (job growth). From a survey control point of view - the common element is job growth - and if they do not match, your confidence in either survey is diminished. (Note that the household survey includes ALL job growth, not just non-farm).
  • The household survey added 325,000 people to the labor force - this means only two-thirds of the increased workforce found a job.
  • The National Federation of Independent Business' (NFIB) monthly Jobs Report is at the end of this post.

Concentrating on the labor force growth vs. employment growth - it should be noted that the trend lines have reversed. The labor force growth is now outpacing employment growth.

Still, employment growth will fluctuate but the US economy is in a soft period where this trend should continue.

Economic Forecast

The Econintersect Economic Index (November 2019) forecast fell marginally again this month and continues to show the lowest level of growth since the economic slowdown in 2016. The continuing weakness of manufacturing, transport, and exports/imports continues to weigh on our economic forecast.

The fundamentals which lead job growth are now showing a significant slowing growth trend in the employment growth dynamics. We are currently predicting the jobs growth to be below the growth needed to maintain participation rates and the employment-population ratios at the current levels.

Economic Releases This Past Week

The following table summarizes the more significant economic releases this past week. For more detailed analysis - please visit our landing page which provides links to our complete analyses.

Overall this week:

  • Employment growth soft this month due to General Motors strike
  • Housing sector continues weak but remains on an improving trend line
  • Transport weak and in contraction
  • Manufacturing growth remains weak
  • Construction spending remains in contraction

Economic Release Summary For This Week

Release Potential Economic Impact Comment
September Chicago Fed National Activity Index showing weak economic growth

The economy's rate of growth declined based on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) three-month moving (3MA) average - and the economy is well below the historical trend rate of growth. The economy has slowed from its rate of growth in 2018. All components of the index are in negative territory this month.

September Case Shiller Home Price Index price growth slow

The non-seasonally adjusted S And P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities) year-over-year rate of home price growth was unchanged at 2.0 %. The index authors stated, "Phoenix saw an increase in its YOY price change to 6.3% and retained its leading position.".

September Pending Home Sales

home sales are trending up

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) seasonally adjusted pending home sales index improved. Our analysis shows the year-over-year rate of growth improved. The quote of the day from this NAR release:

... Even though home prices are rising faster than income, national buying power has increased by 6% because of better interest rates ...

October ADP Employment shows weak growth

ADP reported non-farm private jobs growth at 125,000 which was within expectations. A quote from the ADP authors:

Job growth has throttled way back over the past year. The job slowdown is most pronounced at manufacturers and small companies.

This month the rate of ADPs private employment year-over-year growth is below the tight range seen over this year. The rolling average of the year-over-year rate of growth was the same as last month. Last month's employment numbers were revised down.

3Q2019 GDP weakness was consumer spending

The advance estimate for third-quarter 2019 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a positive 1.9 %. This growth is worse than the previous quarter's 2.0 % if one looks at quarter-over-quarter headline growth. Year-over-year growth also declined.

The main weakness this quarter was consumer spending which slowed over the previous quarter.

  • consumption for goods and services declined but added 2.9 % to GDP.
  • trade balance improved but removed 0.1 % from GDP
  • inventory decline removed 0.1 % from GDP
  • fixed investment declined and removed 0.2 % from GDP
  • government spending declined but added 0.4 % to GDP
FOMC Meeting Announcement lowered federal funds rate

The Federal Open Market Committee (OTCPK:FOMC) - the board of directors of the Federal Reserve lowered the range of the federal funds rate by a quarter-point as expected, and stated:

.... Although household spending has been rising at a strong pace, business fixed investment and exports remain weak ....

September Personal Income and Expenditures spending not keeping up with income growth The trend continues where income growth is outpacing consumption growth.

Consumer income growth year-over-year is growing faster than the spending growth year-over-year.

The savings growth rate improved and has remained in a narrow band in 2019.

Real Disposable Personal Income is up 3.5 % year-over-year, and real consumption expenditures are up 2.6 % year-over-year.

October BLS Employment 325,000 people to the labor force and employment growth was only 128,000 The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth was above expectations but soft reported due to the strike at General Motors.

The establishment and household surveys correlated weakly. The labor force grew faster than job growth. Jobs growth in 2019 continues to be worse than any year since 2010. The trends clearly continue to show a slower growing employment picture.

A summary from the report:

Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 128,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in food services and drinking places, social assistance, and financial activities. Within manufacturing, employment in motor vehicles and parts decreased due to strike activity. Federal government employment was down, reflecting a drop in the number of temporary jobs for the 2020 Census.

The economically intuitive sectors were mixed.

September Construction Spending remains deep in contraction

The headlines say construction improved month-over-month. Our analysis shows the rolling averages improved. The rolling averages improved. Also note that inflation is grabbing hold, and the inflation-adjusted numbers are deep in contraction.

Surveys manufacturing surveys soft

Dallas Fed National Activity Index - This survey declined but remains in positive territory year-over-year with subindices new orders declining (and now in contraction) and unfilled orders declining and remaining in contraction. The survey is at the lowest level seen in over three years. This should be considered a worse report than last month.

Conference Board Consumer Confidence - The latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index's headline number now stands at 125.9 (1985=100), down from 126.3 in September.

Chicago Purchasing Managers Index - The Chicago Business Barometer fell 3.9 points to 43.2 in October, the lowest level since December 2015.

ISM and Markit Manufacturing Survey -The ISM Manufacturing survey improved but remains in contraction for the first time in three years. The key internals were in contraction. The Markit PMI manufacturing Index remained barely in positive territory and insignificantly improved.

Rail Movements Definitely not positive news

Rail so far in 2019 has changed from a reflection of a strong economic engine to contraction. Currently, not only are the economic intuitive components of rail in contraction, but the year-to-date has slipped into contraction.

My usual weekly wrap is in my instablog.

This article was written by

Steven Hansen profile picture
Steven Hansen (A.K.A "The Hand") was born, raised and educated in California. Steven worked for 25 years for a major international engineering and construction corporation. He has lived outside of the USA almost continuously since 1978. Steven retired in 1995 to sail the world. He is still sailing today and is currently located in Malaysia. On the financial side, Steven is a pragmatist. His motto is to "go with the flow" and believes that the only correct investing method is one which makes you money both short and long term. He does not fall in love with philosophies – only results. He has invested well enough to retire at 45 and stay retired.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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