U.S. Feb payrolls drop for second straight month

by Glenn Somerville

U.S. employers cut payrolls for a second straight month during February, slashing 63,000 jobs for the biggest monthly job decline in nearly five years as the labor market weakened steadily, a government report on Friday showed.

The Labor Department said last month’s cut in jobs followed an upwardly revised loss of 22,000 jobs in January instead of 17,000 reported a month ago. In addition, it said that only 41,000 jobs were created in December, half the 82,000 originally reported.

December was first reported as a ‘very weak’ 17,000 increase, revised to up 82,000 a month later (not ‘as originally reported’ as above) and now further revised to up 41,000.

These are substantial swings with current market sensitivities, and January and February will likely be further revised next month.

At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8%. The previous increases corresponded to an unexpected jump in the labor force participation rate, which has now fallen back some in line with Fed expectations.

The Fed has long been anticipating that demographic forces would reduce the labor force participation rate and thereby tighten the labor markets.

That is, we are running out of people to hire; so, new hires fall while the unemployment rate stays the same or goes down.

The last several months are consistent with this outlook, and it means the output gap isn’t all that large, as 4.75% unemployment is deemed by the Fed to be full employment with anything less further driving up inflation.

All this makes things more difficult for the Fed:

Without a major net supply response (a 5+ million bdp jump in crude or crude substitutes or drop in demand), crude prices will likely continue to rise. The drop in net demand for OPEC crude that cuased the price to break was about 15 million bdp in the 1980s, for example.

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