Job board operator Monster, which CNN says is officially up for sale, got little help today from a positive jobs employment report that buoyed the rest of the market, helping it regain some of Tuesday’s triple-digit loss.
Payroll processor ADP said 216,000 private sector jobs were created in February. The company’s closely watched National Employment Report offers clues to what the official jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor will show when it is released Friday. (ADP counts only private-sector jobs, while the Labor Department report includes all levels of government workers, a sector that has seen deep cuts in its workforce.)
Even though the ADP report rarely synchs with the government numbers, it reliably predicts whether job growth has been positive or negative and often accurately reflects the magnitude of the change. That’s why when the company and its partner, Macroeconomic Advisers, reported across-the-board increases in all sectors and among companies of all sizes, the market reacted by bidding up the Dow some 75 points by early afternoon in New York.
Alas for Monster, it opened at $8.29, a few pennies under its Tuesday close, where it is now. The company saw its stock jump last week after CEO and board Chairman Sal Iannuzzi all but said the company was for sale. The stock took another bounce Tuesday after Monster said it had hired Stone Key Partners LLC and BofA Merrill Lynch as financial consultants to help it consider “strategic alternatives.”
Tuesday, CNN said it had confirmed that a company sale was high on the list of those alternatives.
Among the potential buyers, CNN mentions Google. It was once strongly rumored to be interested in the job board, but its ardor has cooled along with its interest in the broader classified advertising market. More likely is CNN’s speculation that an equity investment firm could buy the company. A Bloomberg report from Monday suggests that a takeover could immediately save $100 million annually in administrative and other expenses.
Despite Monster’s troubles, today’s ADP report offers more support for the cautious optimism among business leaders and economists that the jobs market is improving. The 216,000 new jobs created by the private sector was better than the 208,000 average expected by economists. It fuels hope that Friday’s government report will come in at the upper end of forecasts, most of which are in the range of 210,000 to 220,000.
“This does suggest we are moving in the right direction,” Beth Ann Bovino, senior U.S. economist at Standard & Poor’s told the New York Times. “It supports the expectations of another 200,000-plus in Friday’s payroll report. The jobs numbers are looking healthier.”
The ADP report said the service sector added 170,000 jobs. Manufacturing added 21,000 new jobs. Even the construction industry, one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy, added 16,000 jobs, in part because of the generally good weather the country has been experiencing this winter.
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The report also adjusted up the initial job numbers for January. They increased from 170,000 to 173,000.
“February’s increase marks the twenty-fifth consecutive monthly gain in private employment as measured in the ADP Report and suggests that the national unemployment rate may have declined slightly last month,” said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Adviser. “Conditions continue to improve at a moderate pace and are consistent with other indicators suggesting some firming of the labor market.”