Let’s just get this out of the way now…
The September jobs report was absolutely abysmal. The U.S. added 142,000 jobs last month, widely missing estimates for 200,000. What’s more, August’s lackluster report was revised lower by 40,000 to 136,000. Back-to-back weak jobs reports are the start of an ugly trend for the American economy.
To make matters worse, the average hourly wage crept a penny lower and 350,000 people dropped out of the labor force, putting participation at its lowest level since October 1977.
But these numbers shouldn’t have surprised Wall Street. We’ve been seeing hints of this slowdown in the American economy for some time and it makes it very clear what the Fed is going to do for the rest of 2015.
The hints that have peppered Wall Street are the layoff announcements from the companies that are doing the actual hiring, not an estimate of who hired whom and who fired whom.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. — a staffing company that compiles all the layoff announcements each month — posted its results for September on October 1, and it wasn’t pretty.
The amount of jobs that will be laid off, according to the company’s press release, totaled 58,877 in September, a 43% increase from the prior month.
Monthly results like this alone don’t tell you a whole lot.
But, once you put it into context, the data tells you low rates are here to stay. Let me explain.
More Economic Weakness Is on the Horizon
Two important indicators are lining up to show a significant slowdown in the American economy. An important fact to distinguish is that these two indicators have different time frames. For example, nonfarm payrolls are a lagging indicator — this hiring/firing has already happened. Layoff announcements are firing that will take place in the near future, a forward-looking indicator.
With that said, let’s take a look at the trend in layoff data. Below is a chart on the number of announced job cuts since June 2014.
Layoffs Announced Since June 2014
The jagged blue line — representing the number of announced job cuts — is drifting higher. I added the red line to highlight the direction layoffs have been heading.
Another interesting tidbit from the release by Challenger is that the company noticed that earlier in the year layoffs were focused in the energy sector, but it has now translated into layoffs in the computer industry (think: Hewlett-Packard) and consumer sectors such as retail and automotive.
This is a huge shift. It portrays the impact a slowing economy, lower oil prices and higher wages will continue to have on our employment situation.
And the trend in increased layoffs goes back further than last year. Looking at the data on a quarterly basis shows that this past third quarter was the second highest in job cuts since the Great Recession.
These layoff announcements are worrisome for the American economy, the markets and for Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
The Fed Missed Its Opportunity
Ms. Yellen routinely includes the labor market as a significant measure that’s considered when deciding whether to raise rates, which is why all eyes are on nonfarm payrolls today.
But the truth is, according to our payroll data, the Fed could have raised rates a year ago when the American economy was stronger: Unemployment was steadily falling and jobs reports were strong. The layoff announcements above tell me that this is about to change.
In short, the Fed missed its shot.
Nonfarm payrolls had been trending higher in recent years, but now those results have started to turn lower — not an environment the Fed wants to raise rates in.
This tells us one thing: The American economy will see low rates for at least another decade.
Your hunt for yield will remain unabated, and income-generating stocks will be in high demand.
Editor, Pure Income