Consumer Confidence Improves, But Jobs Numbers Hard to Predict

Aug 31, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

It’s numbers week in the U.S. again. The time of the month when the official government employment data makes its appearance, influencing stock markets worldwide, and corporate hiring decisions nationally.

Predictions of what Friday’s labor report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will show are already beginning to appear. A Dow Jones Newswire survey of economists says that on average they expect the U.S. to have lost 110,000 jobs during August. That’s mostly due to the continuing layoff of temporary Census workers.

Because of the massive Census hiring, analysts have been paying closer attention to developments in private sector hiring. In July, the BLS said 71,000 non-government jobs were created, though the Census layoffs resulted in a total loss of 141,000 jobs. (Both those numbers are likely to be adjusted in the Friday release.)

Tomorrow, we get a preview of what may be in store when ADP releases its National Employment Report. The payroll processor uses its data to estimate the monthly change in private sector employment. While the numbers are usually lower than the government’s, they tend to accurately predict whether jobs were added or lost.

There’s not much consensus among the market blogs and advisory services that try to crystal-ball the report. Zacks Investment Research says the ADP report will show 15,000 jobs lost in August. MF Global UK Limited, meanwhile, is looking for a gain of 13,000.

Once the report is released, which is usually just before the business day starts on the East Coast, we’ll see new predictions of what Friday’s BLS report will contain.

Also out in the morning will be  The Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online Data Series. It counts the number of online job postings in total, and the number of new listings.

The Help Wanted series, and Monster’s Employment Index (out Thursday) help show the national hiring trend. The Monster Index has been moving up slowly, but consistently, since the beginning of the year. The Help Wanted numbers are more erratic, though the total number of job ads online has risen by almost 260,00 since January.

As always, surprises are not unusual. For instance, The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, released this morning, improved to 53.5 from a revised 51 in July. That was a little better than what some economists were expecting.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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