Surging ADP Numbers Has Analysts Wondering: Are Their August US Jobs Report Forecasts Too Low?

 @MikeObelm.obel@ibtimes.com on September 06 2012 1:25 PM
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    It's been overlooked -- it's received very little coverage by the popular press -- but it's worth repeating: one benefit of the health care reform legislation will be: enhanced "job mobility." REUTERS
  • US LAbor Market
    An ADP report that private sector job creation topped analyst expectations by nearly a third has economists taking a second look at their, perhaps too negative, predictions, about what Friday's U.S. jobs report from the Labor Department will show. Reuters
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Surprisingly strong U.S. job gains reported in a key survey Thursday, the ADP private payroll report -- one that far outpaced analyst expectations -- could mean that the government's August labor report on Friday may be a lot better than the initial consensus indicated.  

Data released Thursday in the ADP National Employment Report showed that the private sector created 201,000 jobs in August, more than the approximately 140,000 various analysts expect and the biggest gain for employment in five months.

Meanwhile, a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. stated that job cuts in August dropped to 32,239 -- the lowest numbers for layoffs in 20 months.  

Together, the two reports are sparking a re-evaluation among some leading analysts of their outlook for the Friday report on U.S. employment in July.

Analysts surveyd by Reuters have been estimating that the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday will report that employers in July increased payrolls by 125,000 workers. If that's correct, it would be a step down from July's 163,000 job gain. 

Estimates such as those may be set for an increase.

"The 201,000 increase in the U.S. ADP private sector employment survey in August was the biggest gain in five months and suggests our forecast that official nonfarm payroll employment rose by around 100,000 in August may be too pessimistic," John Higgins of Capital Economics said in a note. 

Joseph A. Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank, said the surprise ADP number should cause an upward revision in forecasts for Friday's nonfarm payroll report, but he is not raising his forecast, because it is already above consensus.

"At the margin, ADP and [today's] nonmanufacturing ISM employment impart some upside risk to our August payrolls [forecast]. However, we are already above consensus [at 127,000], and jobless claims are little changed over the relevant period," he said in a note.

Another sign that the surprisingly strong ADP changed some minds emerged in the bond market. The price of U.S. Treasuries, a safe-haven security whose price reflects the investment community's outlook for the broader economy, fell shortly after the report was issued. The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note traded down 17/32 to yield 1.65 percent, a gain from the previous day's yield of 1.55 percent.

Bond prices move inversely from yields, so a rise in yields, as well as the accompanying fall in prices, indicates weaker investor interest in safety and a more optimistic outlook.

Not all economists viewed the ADP report as an occasion to brighten their outlook.

"Overall, we view this report as suggesting that the modest improvement in labor market conditions that began in July has held through August, but further momentum has been lacking," Michael Gapen of Barclays said in a note.

"For the August employment report, scheduled for release [Friday], we continue to look for headline nonfarm payrolls to rise 150,000 and for private payrolls to rise 160,000. We expect the unemployment rate will decline 0.1 percent to 8.2 percent. Our forecast is consistent with the readings on jobless claims, which suggest conditions in labor markets have improved relative to those seen in Q2. As a result, we look for the improvement in the July payroll numbers to continue."

Aspen Gorry, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, was also unmoved by the ADP numbers.

"I don't think this shows that the job market is actually improving just because the ADP numbers typically differs fairly substantially from jobs report numbers," he said. "It's a positive signal to get more private sector jobs, but it's not going to drastically change the forecast."

Despite the resistance to revising forecasts upwardly, some economists appeared closer to making such a move, especially if Friday's employment report is also strong, or at least ease worries about the economy.

"The gain in private employment in August is strong enough to suggest that the national unemployment rate may have declined," Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC said. "Today's estimate, if matched by a similar reading on employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, will alleviate concerns that the economy has slipped into a downturn."  

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Writers Moran Zhang and Eleazar David Melendez contributed to this story.

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