The December employment report was extremely concerning because had it not been for retail and temporary workers, the December jobs report would have been negative. Retail and temporary worker job growth totaled over 95,000, but net job growth was only 74,000. In addition, people looking for work stopped looking for work during the holiday season, and this caused the unemployment rate to fall in surprising fashion.
Initially, a weak report like this might make us believe that the Federal Reserve would question it's tapering, but in addition to this very weak December report the November report was revised higher by 40,000. The extra strength in the November report helps to offset what I consider to be considerable weakness in the December report, which in turn offsets concern about December.
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One might argue that the employment report was itself very seasonal, and hiring took place before the holiday season in most sectors, but any way you slice it, most sectors were extremely weak with construction, information and government jobs showing negative growth.
Although this is largely a negative report, the change in the unemployment rate and the added strength attributed to the November report is enough to prevent the Fed from changing its course on tapering.
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In fact, anyone reading the Labor Department report can see that the focus is on the trend, and according to the Labor Department and other general economic observations, the trend is still favorable.
Therefore, even though the December jobs report was a negative one, and even though job creation was focused on seasonality while almost everything else was muted, the overall trend has not changed much and the Fed is likely to stay the course and taper according to schedule in the face of this negative news.
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— By Thomas H. Kee, Jr.
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