The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by a strong 250,000 in October. The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, held at 3.7%, the lowest since 1969.
The nonfarm payroll number has been volatile lately. We get strong numbers followed by weaker numbers.
July registered 165,000, August 286,000, September 118,000, which brings us to October’s preliminary reading of 250,000. Over the last six months, the average up or down change in the payroll number from the prior month has been 103,000 (U.S. BLS data). There doesn’t seem to be much month-to-month consistency.
Seasonal discrepancies that aren’t being accounted for, survey quirks, or some combination may be to blame. What is important, however, is that any noise in the monthly data is generally squeezed out when viewed over longer period.
During the first ten months of the year, payroll growth averaged a healthy 213,000 each month, up from 180,000 over the same period in 2017.
Last month’s update began with the headline, Strong Economic Fundamentals Drives Shares to New Highs. While I acknowledged that October has a ghoulish reputation, September is, on average, the weakest month for stocks (MarketWatch – Dow Jones Industrial going back to 1896).
This year, October, which historically sports a gain (St. Louis Fed data back to 1970), lived up to its supposedly undeserved reputation.
Let’s dive in and dissect October’s weakness, review the near-term outlook, and put October’s pullback in perspective.
Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, expanded at an annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter per the U.S. BEA.
Growth came in just above expectations.
Combined with Q2’s 4.2% rate, it’s the fastest pace since 2014 (BEA).
It’s the first read on Q3 activity; it’s subject to two more revisions.
The U.S. BEA reported on Friday that Q3 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the largest measure of goods and services in the economy, expanded at an annual pace of 3.5%. Consumer spending continued to be a big contributor to GDP, but business spending softened.
Notably, export growth fell sharply from the prior quarter, as companies likely shifted exports into Q2 to beat upcoming tariffs. Meanwhile, inventory accumulation added 2.1 percentage points to GDP. Friday’s release was a preliminary reading, and we’ll get two more revisions over the next couple of months.