January Payrolls Miss Big, Adding Only 151,000 Jobs, But Hourly Wages Jump And Unemployment Slides To 4.9%

A quick glimpse at the big miss in the January payrolls report, which just reported only 151,000 jobs gains well below the 190,000 expected and below most big banks' expectations, if precisely on top of the whisper number, would have been sufficient to send futures soaring in the pre market: after all it would mean the economy has topped out and no more hikes are necessary.

Additionally, prior months were also revised sharply lower, with the November and October prints of 292K and 252K revised to 262K and 177K, a net loss of 105K jobs in the prior two months.


However, one glance below the headline and things get troubling because if indeed the Fed is most focused on the growth in hourly wages then we may have a problem: average hourly wages jumped by 0.5% - and 2.5% from a year ago - far above last month's unchanged print, and quite a bounce to the expected 0.2%, suggesting wage inflation is indeed starting to heat up and putting the Fed in a very uncomfortable place.


Then there was the household survey which allegedly added 615,000 jobs, even if the pace of annual increase remains below the benchmark, at just 1.6% Y/Y.


The labor force participation rate eeked out another modest increase from a 30+ year low, rising to 62.8%, as a result of the people not in the labor force dropping by 41K while those allegedly employed (per the household survey) soared by 615,000, a number that is certain to be revised far lower.


Finally, the unemployment rate dropping to a cycle low of 4.9% is surely not going to help the "there is slack in the work force" argument.

From the report:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in January. Employment rose  in several industries, led by retail trade, food services and drinking places,  health care, and manufacturing. Private educational services and transportation  and warehousing lost jobs. Mining employment continued to decline. (See table B-1  and summary table B. See the note at the end of this news release and table A for information about the annual benchmark process.)

Retail trade added 58,000 jobs in January, following essentially no change in December. Employment rose in general merchandise stores (+15,000), electronics and appliance stores (+9,000), motor vehicle and parts dealers (+8,000), and furniture and home furnishing stores (+7,000). Employment in retail trade has increased by 301,000 over the past 12 months, with motor vehicle and parts dealers and general merchandise stores accounting for nearly half of the gain.

Employment in food services and drinking places rose in January (+47,000). Over the year, the industry has added 384,000 jobs.

Health care continued to add jobs in January (+37,000), with most of the increase occurring in hospitals (+24,000). Health care has added 470,000 jobs over the past 12 months, with about two-fifths of the growth occurring in hospitals.

Manufacturing added 29,000 jobs in January, following little employment change in 2015. Over the month, job gains occurred in food manufacturing (+11,000), fabricated metal products (+7,000), and furniture and related products (+3,000).

Employment in financial activities rose in January (+18,000). Job gains occurred in credit intermediation and related activities (+7,000).

Private educational services lost 39,000 jobs in January due to larger than normal seasonal layoffs.

Employment in transportation and warehousing decreased by 20,000 in January. Most of the loss occurred among couriers and messengers (-14,000), reflecting larger than usual layoffs following strong seasonal hiring in the prior 2 months.

Employment in mining continued to decline in January (-7,000). Since reaching a peak in September 2014, employment in the industry has fallen by 146,000, or 17 percent.

Employment in professional and business services changed little in January (+9,000), after increasing by 60,000 in December. Within the industry, professional and technical services added 25,000 jobs over the month, in line with average monthly gains over the prior 12 months. Employment in temporary help services edged down in January (-25,000), after edging up by the same amount in December.

Employment in other major industries, including construction, wholesale trade, and government, changed little over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 34.6 hours in January. The manufacturing workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.7 hours, and factory overtime was unchanged at 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.8 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 12 cents to $25.39. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent. In January, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 6 cents to $21.33. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised from +252,000 to +280,000, and the change for December was revised from +292,000 to +262,000. With these revisions, employment gains in November and December combined were 2,000 lower than previously reported. Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 231,000 per month. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses since the last published estimates and the recalculation of seasonal factors. The annual benchmark process also contributed to these revisions.