Employment and Interest Rates

The US economy added 151,000 net new jobs in August, below consensus expectations for 180,000. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate remained stable at 62.8%, as did the jobless rate at 4.9%, though it was expected to tick slightly lower to 4.8% for the month. The closely-watched U6 rate, or “underemployment” rate, which measures unemployed workers and those working part time for economic reasons, remained stuck at 9.7%.

The unemployment rate and the jobs numbers are misleading when taken out of context.  The context of importance here is the historically low labor force participation rate, from folks having given up looking for work, even though they’re perfectly viable potential employees rather than boomers who’ve retired (a number of whom actually have retired earlier than they wanted to and still would work, were there jobs).

Then there’s this, from Dan North, of Euler Hermes North America:

The most important part [of the report] is the weakness in hours and wages. That slammed the door on September [rate-hike chances].

I’ve said it before, and here I am saying it again: if the Fed wants 2% inflation, then it needs to stop chasing the market; it needs to stop focusing on jobs numbers, per se; and it needs to stop holding out for 2% inflation before it moves.  It needs to set its benchmark interest rates at levels historically consistent with 2% inflation and then sit down and watch.  Watch the economy recover, watch folks who’ve given up come back into the labor force, watch wage growth reappear, watch the labor participation rate, from that, recover to more normal levels; and watch the unemployment rate, still low, actually mean something.

And watch prosperity and productivity resume growing.

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