What do the latest jobs trends tell us about the outlook?

A post-election rally may be the best hope for a near-term outlook that appears relatively weak—modest at best—as the latest jobs data appear to confirm.

Of most interest in the jobs data is a slight uptick in the unemployment rate and in the number of unemployed. This may be the first sign of the emerging trend hidden amid several months of uneven job growth.

This early sign of job weakness parallels a falloff in spending confidence that has occurred as election-related worries have risen (see prior post here).

Unless the post-election period triggers a rally in hiring and spending confidence, then the recent trends suggest that spending for the December holidays will be relatively weak (per the forecast found here).

The weakness—and hot spots—in spending largely will reflect these job trends:

  • Job trendsWeak states. Twelve states are registering flat or declining job growth in recent months. The weakness is driven by oil, manufacturing, and related job losses in the worst-hit states: Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wyoming.
  • Metro markets. The major cities and metro markets are faring better. The top 30 metro markets representing more than one-third of all jobs are growing at a more than 2.0% rate. The lagging metro markets include New Orleans, Houston, and Oklahoma City, which reflecting oil job losses.
  • Strong markets. Amid the pockets of weakness, the top 12 states and the top 12 metro markets have been able to sustain strong job growth approaching 3.0% or better in recent months. Florida and California are among the biggest states sustaining strong growth.

The local differences are hidden amid the overall gain of 156,000 jobs in September—and an upwardly revised gain of just 167,000 jobs in August.

See the table summary for detail on the latest job numbers.

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