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Jobs Numbers Improve Ahead of Election

Mark Vickery

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (:BLS) non-farm payroll report this morning -- obviously, the last one before next Tuesday's General Election, meaning this particular BLS report takes on additional political weight -- was good: 171,000 non-farm payroll jobs were added to the U.S. labor force in October. This was in the higher range of expectations before the report.

In addition, upward revisions for both September and August were reported at +34,000 and +50,000, respectively. Aside from no change in average hourly earnings, all numbers beneath the headline seemed to be positive as well: the Private Sector brought in 184,000 new jobs last month, including 51,000 in Professional and Business Services, 31,000 in Healthcare, 36,000 for Retail and 28,000 in Leisure and Hospitality. The only down number was in Government employment -- including Federal, State and Local -- down 13,000 jobs for October (half of those were from State governments), but lower Government employment can, in some ways, still be considered a positive.

Unemployment actually ticked up a tenth of a point to 7.9%. According to the separate Household Survey, 578,000 were added to the workforce; 470,000 of those people found jobs and 170,000 remain unemployed. But with the Participation Rate moving up to 63.8%, a gain in the Unemployment Rate is not only more understandable, but it can be considered a modest positive as well (considering job gains have absorbed the additional amount of job seekers for the past month). This also leaves 12.3 million Americans out of work; still nothing to boast about.

We will leave it to political pundits whether this means good things for President Obama's re-election chances next week, but from a market perspective, futures were up slightly ahead of the BLS report and have risen a bit since.

Earnings reports continue filing in (and largely disappointing); for instance, Chevron (CVX) missed expectations before the bell, adding to an aggregate of disappointing earnings for the 3rd quarter. But with forward-looking labor market numbers coming in favorably, we may finally be seeing a meaningful counter-action to downward earnings guidance from companies that have missed 3rd quarter estimates.

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