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Housing experts explain September’s hot mess jobs report

There may be a few slivers of silver lining buried in the storm cloud

Earlier Friday the September employment situation report from the Census Bureau showed new job creation cratering to a weak 142,000, well below analyst expectations.

In short, the report is a hot mess, fo' shizzle. (For the record, these terms are now part of the Oxford Dictionary and, therefore, fair to use in formalized writting.)

Back on point, there were downward revisions to the two prior months total 59,000.

National Association of Federal Credit Unions Chief Economist Curt Long was blunt about his pessimism issued the following statement in response to the Labor Dept.’s September employment report.

“In a word, the September numbers were ugly,” Long says. “Only 142,000 jobs were added, which is well below the average for the year (approximately 200,000), plus we lost more than 50,000 jobs in revisions to past months. Historically, August has seen the biggest upward revisions of any month, so that was extremely disappointing. To add to it, 350,000 workers left the labor force and wages dropped during the month.

“I think this ends any possibility of the Fed raising rates later this month, chances of which were slim to begin with,” Long notes. “However, I think it would be premature to say that a rate rise is off the table for the December meeting.”

Average hourly earnings "growth" also came in below low-end expectations, at 0% and a year-on-year rate of 2.2%, which is also unchanged.

Weekly earnings actually declined from $868.46 to $865.61. Labor participation fell 2 tenths to a nearly 40-year low of 62.4%, the lowest since October 1977.

Those not in the labor force soared 579,000 to a record 94.6 million, up from the previous record 94 million, even as the number of people employed tumbled by 236,000 to 148.8 million. Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke was a little more sanguine about the implications of the report, but only a little.

“The September employment situation report was a blow to confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy as it reflected recent weakness in job creation. Employment growth over the last two years has been a key driver of this year’s robust housing demand,” Smoke says. “The headline initial September job creation number of 142,000 was well below market expectations of 200,000. Perhaps even more shocking were downward revisions to the July and August data.  Analysts had been expecting significant upward revisions to August, as the typical pattern, but instead July and August were revised down by 81,000 jobs.

“We had been seeing a level of job creation closer to 3 million on a trailing 12-month basis on average for the last year, but the revisions and the relatively weak September number change that trailing 12-month trend to 2.8 million,” he says.

 Smoke underscored that job creation is a very important leading indicator of strong demand for housing. 

“The strong employment results for the last two years created an uptick in household formation, which drives demand for home purchases and rentals.  If this softening sticks, we could see less robust growth in the year ahead,” Smoke says.  “With the latest data, the average monthly number of jobs created this year is now 198,000, a 24% decline from last year’s average of 260,000.”

He did find some good in the report.

“A few data points in the report were more positive. The unemployment rate remained 5.1%, the lowest level since March 2008. The U-6 unemployment rate, which is the broadest measure of unemployment, fell to 10%, the lowest level since May 2008,” Smoke says. “About 33% of civilian jobs created over the last 12 months have been for the young adults who are most likely to buy their first home. This should help support continued growth in the share of homes purchased by first time buyers, as economic success has been influencing older Millennials to jump into the housing market this year.”

He noted finally that this will likely have a downward impact on mortgage rates. 

“…(T)his weak report is already influencing the long-term bond market, so mortgage rates will fall in response. The average 30-year conforming rate was down to 3.86% yesterday, and rates will be lower until strengthening economic trends are more evident. This summer’s home shoppers cited favorable interest rates as a top reason for being in the market for a home.”

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