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The most exciting day every month is Jobs Day, a.k.a. Non-Farm Payrolls Day. For awhile there, particularly in 2022, Consumer Price Index Day had usurped it as the moment where everyone had to tune in. But with inflation cooling, and all the talk turning to rate cuts, Jobs Day is officially back at the top of the podium where it belongs.
Cruelly, we have to wait all the way until December 8th – this coming Friday – to get the number. So hopefully the wait will have been worth it, though we’ll get a close look at the American worker all week long.
Jobs Day is shaping up to be a really big one. Economists are expecting 190,000 new jobs, an unemployment rate of 3.9%. The thing to watch: while soft-landing optimism is breaking out all over the place, there really has been an increase in the unemployment rate since the spring when it had gotten as low as 3.4%.
If that rate keeps rising, it’s plausible it triggers the Sahm Rule fairly soon. That rule simply states that when the three-month moving average of the unemployment rate is 0.5% above the recent 12-month low, then history says you're in the early stages of a recession. If the numbers clearly meet the Sahm Rule’s thresholds in the next few months, it would have to be taken seriously as a potential justification to begin cutting rates as soon as possible.
Obviously there's more to the report than just the unemployment rate. Wage growth is expected to come in with a sequential monthly gain of 0.3%, a slight uptick from October’s 0.2%. Cooling wage growth has been a big part of the soft-landing thesis, so we'll see if this number plays along with the thesis. Labor market dynamics come into clearer focus this coming Tuesday when we get the latest job openings (or JOLTS) report for October.
Total job openings are still substantially above pre-pandemic levels, so there’s a credible argument that high labor demand puts upward pressure on wages, complicating an easy landing. While JOLTS, in the past, was a sleepy report, the Fed has been taking job openings very seriously. So you can’t sleep on Tuesday’s reveal. The economists expect that the total number of openings will fall to 9.45 million from 9.55 million in September.
The Fed also continues to monitor inflation expectations. On Friday, we get the latest University of Michigan consumer sentiment numbers, and that survey shows the public's one-year and five-to-10-year inflation expectations. Everyone knows the survey’s been down in the dumps. But falling gas prices and interest rates have been giving consumers reasons to be a bit more cheerful. So keep an eye on whether these numbers bolster optimism or undermine it.
But there’s more for labor market lovers. On Thursday we'll see if Continuing Claims are still rising as they have been for the past few months. On Wednesday we also get ADP’s National Employment Report. So plenty to chew on here.
Of course, with all of this soft-landing, rate cut optimism building, so too are the animal spirits of the market. Those speculative juices are starting to flow. And it's not just the major indices, which are nearing their highest levels of the year. Gamestop rallied about 30% over the last week. ARKK is up 37% since its October low. Coinbase is at its highest level since the spring of 2022. We’ll get a better sense, when the week is done, whether those animal spirits have reason to be let loose or leashed.
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