Friday, September 07, 2012

Where ARE the jobs?

The stock market’s at historic highs. Boosted by news of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s large bond-buying plan to protect the euro, which sent Thursday’s market sharply higher, the S&P 500 is now at 1,438, its highest level since January 2008, the Dow’s at 13,307, where it hasn’t been since December 2007, and the NASDAQ, at 3,136, is higher than it’s been in 12 years, or since November 2000.

The FOX Index (chart), which tracks the distance from 15,800, a “healthy” market minimum total from a Dow of 12,000, an S&P 500 of 1,300, and a NASDAQ of 2,500, has never been higher, and never before above +2,000. (The FOX Index has just passed its fifth birthday.)

Though it’s at new highs, the market hardly moved today because of yet another weak jobs report. Nonfarm payrolls increased only 96,000 last month. Also, the government revised downward the June and July numbers by 41,000.

Economists--who say jobs must grow at least 125,000 a month to cut the unemployment rate--had expected payrolls to rise at least 125,000, with some even pushing their forecasts higher Thursday.

While the unemployment rate did drop to 8.1% from 8.3% in July, that was also bad news, because the lower rate came from 368,000 people giving up their search for work. Temporary employment, a sign of future permanent hiring, declined for the first time since March, and average hourly earnings fell one cent, which could hurt future consumer spending. And worst of all, the labor force participation rate, or the percentage of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one, fell to 63.5% in August, its lowest level since September 1981.

We follow two key metrics on Obama’s job creation since he took office in January 2009--the unemployment rate and the actual number of jobs. As the chart below shows, with two months remaining until the final pre-election jobs report, he seems unlikely to show net job gains on both measurements, and may fail to exceed either.

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