Market Insider

Job market is strong and hiring robust, in contrast to market fears 

Key Points
  • Economists expect the economy added 200,000 payrolls in November, reflecting a strong job market and healthy hiring — even as markets are fearful of a slowing economy and even recession.
  • Markets may shrug off the the jobs report if it is in line with expectations, but if it misses, it could be a big negative for stocks and send buyers into bonds.
A Target worker helps a customer at a Target store in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

November's jobs report Friday should show a strong pace of hiring in a solid underlying economy, a stark contrast to some of the worst fears in financial markets this week.

Sliding bond yields and falling equity prices have helped fan worries that the real economy is going to stall out and head for a recession. But economists, looking at the strength in the labor market among other indicators, have seen little chance of a recession before 2020, though they do see economic growth slowing to just under 2.5 percent in 2019.

When November's employment report is released at 8:30 a.m. ET, economists expect to see 200,000 payrolls added and unemployment holding at 3.7 percent. Economists expect even lower unemployment in months to come. November hourly wages were expected to be up 0.3 percent, or 3.1 percent on an annual basis, according to Thomson Reuters.

ADP November payrolls up 179,00
ADP November payrolls up 179,00

"My guess is we're going to get something just a little above trend because of the fact that retail hiring is going to be good, with all the reports of stores hiring more aggressively than they have in years," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont.

Traders will be watching to see if the jobs report can put a steepening trade back into the bond market. The Treasury curve has been 'flattening' and on Monday, part of the curve between the 2-year and 3-year Treasurys and the 5-year actually inverted. That means the 5-year yield was lower, and that is a recession indicator.

That same phenomena of an inverted curve was close to happening to the part of the curve traders watch much more carefully — the 2-year to 10-year spread. The spread got within 9 basis points before it widened out again Thursday.

"I think the movement in the market just kind of exaggerated the degree to which things have changed in the economic outlook…I see it more of a market story than an economic story," said Stanley.

Treasury yields were slightly higher Friday, with the 2-year yield at 2.76 percent and the 10-year at 2.88 percent. Stock futures were lower, with the Dow set to open sharply lower. 

Markets Thursday were shaken by the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive, at the behest of the U.S., for fear it would aggravate already strained relations between the U.S. and China and make it even more difficult to reach a trade deal. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 780 points, but recovered and was down just 79 points at the close, after a Wall Street Journal story said the Fed could pause in its rate hiking cycle early next year.

Part of the concern about the economy stems from uncertainty around trade and fears that there could be a new round of tariffs if talks fail. But there's also some data that is showing slowing. For one, housing data has been weaker than expected.

Tom Simons, a money market economist with Jefferies, said the bond market has been reacting to the action in the stock market. The 10-year yield touched a low of about 2.82 percent when stocks were selling off sharply Thursday before rising to 2.88 percent late in the day as stocks erased losses.

Simons expects to see 220,000 jobs added in November, and an unemployment rate at 3.7 percent.
"By any measure, it's going to be a very strong release, and I have no expectations whatsoever it will inspire confidence in the market… If it's a weak number, I think that's a big problem. Stocks get killed on that," Simons said.

In October, the economy added 246,000 payrolls, bouncing back from just 136,000 jobs in September. Economists blamed the dip in September on the effect of hurricanes in the Southeast.

Traders have been paying attention to weekly jobless claims data, which were slightly higher than expected this week and have been slightly elevated in recent weeks. The four-week average at 228,000 rose from 223,000 last week.

The thinking is that the claims data is much closer to real-time information on the economy than the monthly jobs report.

"In September, when we printed the lows, it was the lowest continuing claims in 50 years. When you consider how low it is considering how much the population has grown over 50 years, it's unbelievable it could do it. I don't think this is something to be worried about," said Simons.