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US economy adds a whopping 287,000 jobs

An American oil rig worker. (Pixabay)

The US economy added 287,000 jobs in June, crushing the 180,000 expected by economists. This was the biggest jump in payrolls in eight months.

Meanwhile the unemployment rate climbed to 4.9% from 4.7% May. This was the largely due to the 414,000 people who entered the US labor force, which brought the labor force participation rate up to 62.7% in June from 62.6% a month ago.

The unemployment rates for African Americans and Latino Americans climbed to 8.6% and 5.8%, respectively, from 8.2% and 5.6% in May.

Average hourly earnings increased at a 2.6% pace year-over-year, which was a bit lighter than the 2.7% expected.

Nonfarm payrolls jump. Unemployment rate climbs. (Image: BLS)

“Startling, but it does not fully reverse prior weakness,” Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson said.

The June report has of particular interest following May’s dismal report, which initially indicated that US companies added a paltry 38,000 payrolls. Even adjusting for the Verizon labor strike, the number was far short of the 160,000 economists had expected. On Friday, the May number was actually revised lower to 11,000. The April number was revised up to 144,000 from 123,000.

While Shepherdson’s assessment is accurate, most economists seem to be putting more weight into the good than the bad.

“Overall, this is clearly positive news after the worrying slowdown in previous months,” Capital Economics’ Andrew Hunter said.

The US jobs report has global implications as it reflects the health of the world’s largest economy and it could affect the direction of monetary policy, which in turn has broad implications for bond and currency markets.

“In our view, Friday’s US payrolls report will be watched even more keenly than usual as investors look for confirmation that the weak print last month was an outlier and not the start of a new, weaker trend,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Athanasios Vamvakidis said on Wednesday in a note titled “The Most Important NFP of the Year.”

The Fed will be watching very closely.

Achieving full employment is one of the Federal Reserve’s two mandates. So, a deteriorating trend in the jobs reports would put pressure on the Fed to keep monetary policy looser.

Indeed, the disappointing May jobs report was one of the reasons why the Fed decided not to hike interest rates when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) met in June.

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April indicates that the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed while growth in economic activity appears to have picked up,” the Fed said in a press release. “Although the unemployment rate has declined, job gains have diminished.”

This was a point Fed chair Janet Yellen reiterated in her post-FOMC meeting press conference, her speech to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, and her semi-annual Monetary Policy Report to Congress.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks in Philadelphia, Monday, June 6, 2016. (Matt Rourke/AP)

On Wednesday, we got a little more color into how the Fed saw the May jobs report when it released the minutes from its June FOMC meeting.

“Participants discussed a range of interpretations of these data,” the minutes revealed. “Many participants observed that, because of transitory factors, such as statistical noise and the effects of a strike in the telecommunications industry, the reported rate of payroll job growth likely understated its underlying pace; however, many participants thought that the underlying pace had slowed some from that of previous months.”

“Adding to the confusion over how to interpret this report, ‘some’ participants noted that other labor market indicators ‘did not corroborate a material weakening of labor market conditions,’ while some ‘others’ thought it might portend ‘a broader slowdown in growth,'” Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Michael Hanson observed. “This disagreement should keep the Fed cautiously on the sidelines, awaiting a clearer signal. That said, upward revisions and a few solid payroll prints could make this just a bad memory.”

The June jobs report did not come with strong revisions, but the current print was certainly more than solid.

“We maintain our view that better labor market and activity data in the coming weeks will bolster the near­-term outlook for policy tightening and re­affirm our confidence that the expansion remains intact,” Barclays’ Michael Gapen said. “Should the bounce back in payrolls prove transitory, risks of a looser policy path in line with current market pricing would remain.”

In the same way that the May jobs report is just one report, the June jobs report is just one report. And so it’ll surely be a little while before we get a better sense of how these reports will affect the Fed’s outlook for monetary policy.

Sam Ro is managing editor at Yahoo Finance.

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