CONCLUSION: The JUL ’12 US Employment Report leaves much to be desired in the way of supporting the bullish narrative of US economic strength and continues to affirm our view that President Obama’s odds of being reelected may actually be lower than they appear at face value. That said, however, there are enough pockets of strength in this report to potentially keep Bernanke on the sidelines in the SEPT FOMC meeting.
To say the JUL US Employment Report was a bit squirrely would be an understatement. Both the Headline Non-Farm Payrolls number (+163k MoM) and Private Payrolls number (+172k MoM) came in well in excess of consensus expectations, though both saw downward revisions to the prior month (+64k from +80k and +73k from +84k, respectively). Given the increasingly squirrely nature of US government agency economic reporting and the simple fact that this is an election year where the economy is arguably the #1 issue among registered voters, we are not shocked to see the BLS’s now-infamous Birth/Death Model – a purely statistical forecast based largely upon prior leverage cycle highs in US employment trends – produced +52k “jobs” MoM in JUL ’12, which is good for the highest JUL total on record (data going back to 2000).
All that said, when you net out the effects of the NSA B/D Adjustment from the NSA NFP MoM figure and analyze that data series on a YoY basis to offset seasonality distortions, you actually end up with a faster rate of true job growth than we saw last month (+51k from -85k). That is a positive. Another positive that seems to be overlooked is the fact that the JUL Seasonal Adjustment effect of +1,367 Payrolls MoM is very much in line with historical trends, which suggest that fears of inflated Payrolls gains bandied about in various media reports (which may or may not have been written with the goal of prompting the Fed to unleash further QE) may prove to have been quite overblown.
Unfortunately for President Obama’s odds of being reelected – which appear to be making another lower-high at 56.8% on our proprietary Hedgeye Election Indicator – the positives stop there:
- The headline Unemployment Rate SA ticked up +10bps MoM to 8.3%;
- The “actual” Unemployment Rate SA (based upon our calculations using a 10yr average Labor Force Participation Rate) ticked up +20bps MoM to 11.2%;
- The percentage of the working age population that is unemployed ticked up +20bps MoM to 41.6%; and
- The percentage of the working age population not in the labor force ticked up to +10bps MoM to 36.3% as more and more Americans simply give up on looking for work – which will become increasingly hard to find if US corporations continue to implement cost-cutting programs in order to boost earnings, shareholder returns and executive compensation (see PG earnings results for more details). Refer to our JUL 20 note titled, “HAVE US CORPORATE EARNINGS GONE TOO FAR?” for our detailed analysis on this controversial topic. On the aforementioned metric, the US economy is a mere 10bps shy of the all-time high of 36.4% during the Obama presidency (APR ’12).
In the four charts below, we compare Obama’s “score” on the US Labor Market to the previous three two-term presidents. The Strong Dollar presidents (Reagan and Bush) are represented by the solid line plots; the Weak Dollar presidents are represented by the dotted line plots:
All told, the JUL ’12 US Employment Report leaves much to be desired in the way of supporting the bullish narrative of US economic strength and continues to affirm our view that President Obama’s odds of being reelected may actually be lower than they appear at face value. That said, however, there are enough pockets of strength in this report to potentially keep Bernanke on the sidelines in the SEPT FOMC meeting.