By the Numbers

Featuring brief segments of economic analysis from our senior economist Michael Bazdarich, PhD.

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Payroll Job Growth Back To (Sluggish) Average in Feb: What's The Fuss?

After two horrid prints, payroll job growth in February climbed back only to the lackluster pace of the last four years. The media and the markets have so far reacted positively to this lack of more bad news, but there really is not much to fuss about.

Sure, we have had bad weather recently. But weather can only postpone growth in jobs. It can't eliminate it. The East Coast storms, while severe, have been intermittent. If employers had to delay hiring in December or January because of the weather, there should have been some catch-up of that in February before more blizzards set in.

In other words, if the slowdown in the data in recent months were solely weather-driven, growth should have been especially weak one month, with faster-than-trend growth thereafter. Instead, we have seen two months of weak job growth, followed by a number that was only average.

Then again, we saw above-trend job growth in October and November. So, a more compelling story is that the weak December and January jobs data were a reversion to trend after overstated data previously. Beneath all the hoopla, job growth is on the same lackluster trend we have seen since late-2010. There was no true late-2013 upturn in the economy. It was all hype based on strong growth in retail sales etc. that has been revised away, and on two months of stronger job growth that has since been reversed. We could still get a spring-related jump in March or April, but it will not be enough to restore a stronger-growth story.

Monthly Growth in Private Payroll Jobs
March 7 2014 - Monthly Growth in Private Payroll Jobs Chart
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 28 Feb 14

Michael Bazdarich

Product Specialist/Economist

Mike brings more than 40 years of experience to his position. "By the Numbers" will address economic data releases that are pertinent to a broad range of investors.

Prior to joining the Firm in 2005, Mike ran his own consulting firm, MB Economics. He earned his PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago.

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