US Labor Market Resonates with Fed’s Policy Aims

James Hyerczyk
Updated: Sep 4, 2023, 06:07 GMT+00:00

The Jolts and Non-Farm Payrolls reports suggest a labor market becoming increasingly balanced, aligning with the Fed's objectives.

Federal Reserve. Non-Farm Payrolls, JOLTS


  • Moderated wage growth controls inflation.
  • Unemployment rise linked to higher participation.
  • Reduced odds for imminent Fed rate hikes.
  • Labor market nearing equilibrium, suiting Fed.

Why This Week’s U.S. Labor Market Reports Should Please the Fed

This week’s U.S. labor market reports, namely the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP), bring a mixture of insights that should put the Federal Reserve at ease. The reports suggest a labor market that is becoming increasingly balanced.

With moderated wage growth hinting at controlled inflationary pressures, an unemployment rate rise primarily attributed to higher labor participation, and signs of a labor market approaching equilibrium, the overall picture seems aligned with the Fed’s objectives.

Add to this a decreasing probability of further rate hikes this year, and one gets the sense that the labor market is transitioning in a way that resonates well with the Fed’s goals, allowing for a potentially more cautious and measured approach in their future policy decisions.

Significance of the JOLTS and NFP Reports

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) are essential indicators of the health of the labor market. These reports play a critical role in gauging the overall employment picture in the U.S., influencing policymakers’ decisions at the Federal Reserve.

Inflationary Pressures and Wage Growth

One of the Federal Reserve’s main concerns is inflation. A surge in the demand for workers can lead to wage inflation, as companies are willing to pay more to attract talent. The recent NFP report revealed a 4.3% rise in average hourly earnings compared to last year, slightly decelerating from the previous month’s 4.4%. This moderation in wage growth indicates that the labor market might not be contributing excessively to inflationary pressures.

Unemployment and Labor Participation

The unemployment rate jumped to 3.8% last month, a significant leap from the prior 3.5%. A superficial reading might interpret this as negative. However, digging deeper, this increase is attributed to a rise in the labor force participation rate, meaning more individuals are actively seeking employment. This uptick in participation suggests that people are more confident about job prospects, but the concurrent rise in short-term unemployment indicates challenges in finding immediate placements.

Evidence of a Slackening Labor Market

While 187,000 jobs were added in August, revisions made it clear that job growth in preceding months wasn’t as robust as initially reported. Further, reports hint at a general trend of businesses reducing job openings in recent times. If businesses are indeed posting fewer job opportunities, it can be seen as a sign of cautiousness or an anticipation of a slowdown.

Implications for the Fed’s Rate Hiking Campaign

The recent data, combined with the marked down rate of job growth and more moderated wage increases, strengthens the argument against an immediate rate hike. The market now sees only a 38% probability of further rate tightening this year, down from 45% before the release of the recent job report. The message seems clear: The Federal Reserve is likely to hold off on any further rate hikes in September.

Fed’s Past Actions and Future Expectations

It’s worth noting that the Fed has been aggressive in its approach to tackle inflation, which hit a peak of 7% last summer. The recent measures brought it down to 3.3% last month. However, the central bank’s aim is 2% inflation. With the labor market showing signs of a ‘soft landing,’ and inflation trending downwards, there’s a growing consensus that the rate-hiking campaign might soon be paused or even reversed.

In Summary

The labor market’s current state appears to be unfolding in a manner that’s favorable for both the economy and the Fed’s objectives. Hiring is solid, albeit slowing; unemployment is up, but mainly due to increased participation; and wage growth is moderating.

These conditions suggest a transition towards a more balanced labor market, aligning well with the Federal Reserve’s goals. It remains to be seen if this cooling trend continues and how the Fed will respond in the coming months.

About the Author

James is a Florida-based technical analyst, market researcher, educator and trader with 35+ years of experience. He is an expert in the area of patterns, price and time analysis as it applies to futures, Forex, and stocks.

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