June’s employment report is expected to show strong hiring continues across a broad range of industries, and that the labor market may so far be untouched by concerns about a recession on the horizon.
According to Dow Jones, economists expect 250,000 jobs were added last month, down from 390,000 in May. Economists also expect the unemployment rate to remain flat at 3.6%, and wages are expected to rise 0.3%, about the same as May. The report is released at 8:30 a.m. ET Friday.
“Overall, we’re looking for a very solid jobs report. I think there’s been some concerns about a slowdown in consumer spending and the housing sector, but that’s not showing up yet in the labor market,” said Aditya Bhave, senior U.S. and global economist at Bank of America.
Bhave expects stronger job growth at 325,000, but he expects the pace of job creation to wind down to about 100,000 by the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.
The jobs report could provide important clues as to whether the Federal Reserve will charge full speed ahead this month with another 75 basis point rate hike, as it did in June, or slow down to a half point increase. One basis point equals 0.01%.
But for now, economists are not worried about the labor market , and they note that unemployment claims have increased just slightly. Initial filings for unemployment benefits totaled 235,000 for the week ended July 2, a gain of 4,000 from the previous period.
“If our [payroll] forecasts are correct they are probably going to lean towards 75,” said Bhave. “If you get a really bad number, they would lean toward 50.”
For sure, employment is a lagging indicator, but economists are also looking to the labor market as an area of strength that should slow down to a more normal pace as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates. The question is whether the Fed will slow the economy too much, and the job market would be one place where an economic slowdown would ultimately show up in rising unemployment and slower or negative job growth.
So far, the labor market is not showing many signs of weakness. Tom Gimbel, founder of LaSalle Network, said the second quarter was a record for his recruiting firm. Accounting, finance and technology are the hottest jobs.
Aside from startup and unprofitable technology firms, Gimbel said he’s not seeing layoffs or a slowdown in hiring. He is, however, seeing employees leave venture capital funded startup companies for positions in more established employers.
“I’ve never seen a recession with record low unemployment…Does the definition of a recession have to change or does crazy inflation equal a recession?” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the case, but I don’t see the job market slowing down any time soon.”
Since March, the Fed has raised the fed funds target rate from a range of zero to 0.25%, to 1.50% to 1.75%.
Economists say the consumer price index, released next Wednesday, will be much more important for the Fed’s interest rate decision at its July 26 and 27 meeting. However, the payroll data is taking on more import as well.
Recession or not?
“Everybody I talk to in sales and trading is all amped up about how we’re heading for a recession, if we’re not already in one,” said Kevin Cummins, chief U.S. economist at NatWest. “If we get a really bad payroll print or you get a weak average hourly earnings, or the unemployment rate were to go up, it would be a more active debate whether it’s 50 or 75.”
Cummins expects 300,000 payrolls were added in June, a number that would keep the Fed on track to hike a hefty three-quarters point.
“If you get a consensus-like number, I think they still go 75,” Cummins said. “It seems they are so worried about inflation expectations becoming unmoored that they will err on the side of overdoing it and going into restrictive territory.”
Cummins said that the CPI inflation reading may be scorching hot when it is released next Wednesday. He said headline CPI could be 8.9%, up from May’s 8.6%, the highest since 1981.
The Atlantic Fed’s GDP Now forecaster signaled the economy could be in a recession, when it forecast a 2.1% decline in gross domestic product for the second quarter last week. It currently shows GDP shrinking by 1.9%.
Economists surveyed in the CNBC/Moody’s Analytics Rapid Update are forecasting a median 1.8% increase in gross domestic product for the second quarter. Based on incoming data, they growth tracking at about 0.5%.
Two negative back-to-back quarters would signal a recession to many, but not fit the formal definition necessarily that takes into account a broader set of factors. First quarter growth contracted by 1.6%.
Cummins argues that the first quarter should not have been negative, and it was only because of trade and inventories. “You can’t take that data at face value and say things were contracting in the broader economy,” he said. But he said there is a slowing in the economy, and the second quarter could be weaker than the first.
“The labor market is still very healthy. It’s still strong but may not be robust,” he said.