What’s the News in the January Payroll Release of 225,000 Jobs?

Don’t believe the December value of 147,000, says UCLA economist Edward Leamer

Los Angeles (February 7, 2020) — With the release of today’s January 2020 employment report, UCLA Anderson Professor Emeritus Edward Leamer offers an analysis of the data behind the monthly report.

Leamer, who is also director emeritus of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, writes that the latest payroll numbers indicate little actual change from December’s, but continue to show signs of weakness in manufacturing.

Read on for Leamer’s analysis:

The January payroll release of 225,000 jobs is noticeably larger than the previous month’s revised number of 147,000. But it is difficult to discern the real meaning of the revision’s big reduction because the payroll data have some extreme ups and downs, with a big increase followed in the next month by a corrective big decrease.

The real news in these releases can be captured by two smoothed series, one based on just the overall payroll data and another one that includes components of the payroll data like nondurable manufacturing. The actual and the smoothed versions are illustrated in the figure below.

THE NEWS: Total payroll jobs appeared to increase sharply in January because December’s number was exceptionally low and not to be believed. The smoothed series based on overall job growth shows little change from December’s data, still above 200,000; however, the smoothed series that accounts for the composition of payrolls noticeably softened for the second month in a row. This is partly because of weakness in manufacturing, captured by two figures below. One figure shows the early-warning sign of weakness in manufacturing, specifically, a decline in overtime and a reduction in average weekly hours in manufacturing. The other figure illustrates no growth in jobs in durables during 2019 and a slight softening in nondurables. Expect further weakness in manufacturing in 2020.

Jobs Report

Manufacturing Images
Jobs Report

About UCLA Anderson Forecast
UCLA Anderson Forecast is one of the most widely watched and often-cited economic outlooks for California and the nation, and was unique in predicting both the seriousness of the early-1990s downturn in California and the strength of the state’s rebound since 1993. More recently, the Forecast was credited as the first major U.S. economic forecasting group to declare the recession of 2001. Visit UCLA Anderson Forecast at  uclaforecast.com.

About UCLA Anderson School of Management
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