Although the recent holiday gave investors a brief respite from the trading week, it did not slow down the pundits from touting or deflecting the most recent jobs report. Some say the report is a sign that the US economy is on its way back while others say the numbers are all smoke and mirrors for an administration in search of good news.
To take a look behind that curtain, one must first understand that economic statistics can be made to indicate whatever one wants. In this regard, it is just a matter of what one wants to include or group together. Where the most recent jobs report is concerned, there is quite a bit of this going on.
To begin looking at the report, one must consider that it takes 100,000 new job additions per month just to hold the overall unemployment rate steady. The most recent report indicated approximately 160,000 new additions. From this, mathematics can start to be applied (omissions and demographic sectioning can also be considered).
The first and perhaps most important subtraction/omission is that there are approximately 40,000 temporary census workers included in the 160,000 number. In a month or so these workers will go right back onto the unemployment rolls.
Second, one needs to understand that the number referenced is accounting only for those looking for work and is reflective of the perceived 9.7% unemployment rate. In of itself this is not a bad thing as the agency that counts these sorts of things needs a base line to measure against. In this case one must keep in mind that there is a large pool of people who have given up looking for work.
For the average investor, this measure of hiring is an interesting number but needs to be looked at with a grain of salt. Employment hiring, however, is a good measure to look at for an individual company one may be interested in investing in. Maybe the company is adding jobs to fill orders or reducing headcount because they have become more productive. The real effort when assessing individual company employment stacks up to just a few things: why is the number moving, and what is being included, excluded or lumped together. Looking more closely at your investment prospects numbers will likely lead to a more profitable outcome.