The employment situation is a set of labor market indicators. The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labor force. Nonfarm payroll employment counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation’s business and government establishments. The average workweek reflects the number of hours worked in the nonfarm sector. Average hourly earnings reveal the basic hourly rate for major industries as indicated in nonfarm payrolls.
Why do Investors Care?
If ever there was an economic report that can move the markets, this is it! The anticipation on Wall Street each month is palpable, the reactions are dramatic, and the information for investors is invaluable. By digging just a little deeper than the headline unemployment rate, investors can take more strategic control of their portfolio and even take advantage of unique investment opportunities that often arise in the days surrounding this report.
The employment data give the most comprehensive report on how many people are looking for jobs, how many have them, what they’re getting paid and how many hours they are working. These numbers are the best way to gauge the current state and future direction of the economy. They also provide insight on wage trends, and wage inflation is high on the list of enemies for the Federal Reserve. Fed chairman Alan Greenspan talks about this data frequently and watches for inflation constantly.
By tracking the jobs data, investors can sense the degree of tightness in the job market. If wage inflation threatens, it’s a good bet that interest rates will rise, bond and stock prices will fall. No doubt that the only investors in a good mood will be the ones who watched the employment report and adjusted their portfolios to anticipate these events.