the February 2016 Employment Situation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Employment Situation report at 8:30est this morning.  The highlights:

–job gains for February came in at +242,000 new positions

–December and January figures were revised up a total of +30,000 jobs

–the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9%

–wages, which had gained $.12 on a base of $25.26 per hour last month, fell by $.03 in February.  Although this is just one month, the figure threw some cold water on speculation generated by the strong January figure that wages–and therefore inflation–were finally beginning to rise at a more comfortable level after more than half a decade of mammoth monetary stimulation targeted in part at achieving this result.

All in all, good news.

Nevertheless, S&P futures, which spiked a bit on the announcement, are trading slightly below the pre-announcement level as I’m writing this.


One figure that caught my eye was the situation for the mining industry (including oil and gas as well as metals).  Since the employment peak for the sector in September 2014, mining has lost a total of -171,00 positions, including -19,000 last month.  Despite this, the economy as a whole has created around 4 million new jobs over the same period. Yes, Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota… have been hurt by the sharp decline in oil prices, and yes, the oilfield-related jobs typically pay very high wages.  But I continue to find it hard to figure where the evidence can be for the persistent belief on Wall Street that somehow the decline of the oil and gas producing industry offsets most of the benefit to everyone else of lower hydrocarbon prices.  that just can’t be the case.

another aside

Window 10 was doing a massive update to my laptop as the jobs report was being made public.  So I turned on the TV to hear the news.  My fingers skipped over Bloomberg on the remote and went to CNBC.  I guess I’ve begun to admit to myself how stunningly bad Bloomberg has become at delivering informed financial comment.  (I assume this is the result of a new management emphasis on physical appearance rather than brain power, but I don’t know.)

In any event, CNBC is now clearly better.  Making Andrew Ross Sorkin the chief moderator certainly helps.  Conferencing in qualified outsiders does, too.  I’ve never cared for the comic relief provided by Rick Santelli, though.  I  find it hard to tell how much he actually believes of the nonsense he spouts, and I find it vaguely offensive.  But this may be tongue in cheek that I just don’t get.