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Jobs report gives Federal Reserve ‘license’ to rely on consumer strength: expert

Scott Gamm

The better-than-expected jobs report gives the Federal Reserve the ability to rely on the consumer to keep the economy afloat, according to one expert.

“This jobs report was much better than what the market was expecting giving the Fed license to hang its hat on its assessment that the consumer will remain strong supported by a robust jobs market,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Federal Reserve advisor, CEO of Quill Intelligence and author of Fed Up.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell referenced the strength of the consumer on Wednesday, in a press conference following the announcement of the central bank’s third interest rate cut of the year.

“The performance of the economy has been, particularly the household sector, has been strong, has been resilient with low unemployment, attractive levels of job creation, wages moving up, labor force participation moving up, household confidence, and solid gains in many measures of consumer spending,” Powell said.

The economy added 128,000 jobs in October, topping estimates of 85,000, according to a report Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The better-than-expected number comes even with a one-off impact from the General Motors (GM) strike, a dynamic that was specifically mentioned in the government’s report: “Within manufacturing, employment in motor vehicles and parts declined by 42,000, reflecting strike activity.”

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell holds a news conference following the Oct. 29-30 Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

The revisions to the prior two months of data revealed an additional employment gain of 95,000 total jobs, with August’s payroll numbers now crossing the 200,000 mark (219,000 compared to 168,000 as previously reported).

“The headline data suggest a reaccelerating pace of job creation as the 3-month moving average of nonfarm payrolls rose to 176,000 through October compared to an average of 156,000 over the past six months,” Booth added.

A softening manufacturing sector

While the labor market remains strong, there are increasing signs of weakness in the manufacturing sector.

The October ISM manufacturing index came in at 48.3 versus the 48.9 expected, according to a report Friday after the aforementioned jobs report was released. Any level under 50 indicates contracting activity.

“There was some improvement in the internals as both employment and new orders ticked up,” Booth said, referring to the ISM report. “But both metrics remained in contraction and backlogs, which gauge future demand, fell further into the red extending its weak run to a sixth month.”

The market’s focus now turns to the Dec. 11 Fed meeting, where the officials face another decision: whether to cut interest rates again.

“With this latest batch of data in hand, Powell can stand pat on his contention that there’s no need to cut rates further in December,” Booth said.

The market is pricing in a 12.5% chance of a December cut, compared to a 22% probability just one day ago, according to CME data.

Scott Gamm is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ScottGamm.

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