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Indicators May Be Sending 'Wrong Signal': Goldman

Friday, 8 Mar 2013 | 11:41 AM ET
Goldman's Hatzius on Improved Jobs Report
Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs chief economist, weighs in on what the best jobless rate in four years says about the U.S economic recovery.

Goldman Sachs' top economist cautioned on CNBC that major economic indicators such as Friday's better-than-expected jobs report could be sending the "wrong" signals.

"[The jobs number] certainly holds out a hope that we are shifting to a stronger pace of payroll gains, but it's a little puzzling if you compare what's going on in the job numbers with other measures of activity, such as GDP tracking," Jan Hatzius told "Squawk on the Street." "It's not stellar, with other indicators not being quite so strong."

"It either means that there is weak productivity growth or it means that one of the two sides of the coin is sending the wrong signal," Hatzius said. "Maybe what we'll see is that the labor market sends a more accurate signal than some of the other indicators. I think there are some open questions here."

"On the household survey, it's a bit more mixed than the headline would suggest, because (of) the drop in labor force participation, which was surprising. It looked (like) over the prior six months that that had been stabilizing," he said. "It's nevertheless a strong household survey and a strong establishment survey."

(Read More: Job Creation Surges as Rate Falls to 7.7%)

Hatzius said he expects "slower job growth, partly because the job numbers and the real activity numbers should converge to somewhat greater degree."

"It does hold out the hope that things are getting better," he added.

On the Fed, Hatzius said that if we're adding jobs at the current rate, it would certainly bring down the overall unemployment rate. "At 236,000 jobs, it is a pretty sizable gain and it should bring down unemployment over time."

(Read More: Cramer: Markets 'Have Great Faith in Bernanke')

Maintaining growth in jobs could shift Fed policy toward hiking rates, although this depends more on whether this growth is sustainable, he said. "The question is more, how many months of this do you have to see to be convinced that job growth is an underlying trend. If you had a very long period at this kind of pace, of course they would make some changes."

"This is a very good number on the establishment survey but really how sustainable is it and how are we going to be looking at this three to six months down the road? What they will want to see is sustained strength," Hatzius said. "We've had accelerations in payroll growth that have proven to be short-lived in a couple of cases. They want to see broader signs of improvement," including in household and an increase in the hiring rate. He pointed to Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen's speech on Monday as an indication of exactly what the Fed is looking for.

(Read More: Aggressive Fed Stimulus Still Needed: Yellen)


— By CNBC's Paul Toscano. Follow him on Twitter and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street" @ToscanoPaul

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