Last Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued its monthly Employment Situation report for March.
The numbers were bad.
At a gain of +126,000 positions for the month (+129,000 jobs in the private sector, -3,000 in government), the growth in jobs was less than half the monthly gains over the past year, which averaged close to +270,000.
Revisions to January and February were also negative. The February figure was revised down by -31,000 jobs to +264,000 and the January number by -38,000 to +201,000.
–retail trade continued to perk along,
–business and professional services and healthcare continued to expand, although at a slower rate
–most other industries showedd little change in employment, and
–mining fell by -11,000 jobs–presumably as a result of the slowdown in oil and gas drilling.
Although there was no equities trading in the US on Friday, the stock index futures market was open for business until 9:15. Futures for the S&P 500, NASDAQ and the Dow all dropped by about a percentage point on the ES report.
As I’m writing this at about 8:30 today, futures have recovered around a third of Friday’s decline.
The most likely explanation for the March weakness is the unusually cold and stormy weather in many of the most highly populated parts of the country during the month. The revisions to the very strong figures of the two prior months–also plagued by awful weather–are curious only in that they suggest that the firms that were suffering most during the quarter also the ones who dragged their feet in reporting.
To my mind, the weak March ES has no real economic significance.
Today’s reaction to the report in stock trading on Wall Street will be interesting, though, It will give us some insight into the mood of the market. A bullish market would shake the news off and end the day up. A skittish one would use the figures as an occasion to sell off. So it will be important, I think, to see whether the market ends up or down, and where the areas of strength and weakness are.