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Blowout Jobs Data Won’t Trigger Quicker Rate Hike 

Kristina Hooper 

The Upshot 

7/7/2014 

The markets are digesting a stellar jobs report, which may fuel debate over when the Fed will start raising rates. But it’s important for investors to understand the Fed’s holistic approach in order to avoid a kneejerk reaction, writes Kristina Hooper.
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Kristina Hooper is the US investment strategist and head of US Capital Markets Research & Strategy for Allianz Global Investors. She has a B.A. from Wellesley College, a J.D. from Pace Law and an M.B.A. in finance from NYU, where she was a teaching fellow in macroeconomics.

The US job market is getting healthier, but a huge month for job creation and a falling unemployment rate aren’t necessarily enough to trigger a rate hike any sooner.

Last Thursday, we saw a blowout jobs number. The June employment report showed that non-farm payrolls rose 288,000. This pushed the three-month average to a robust 272,000 jobs and it marked the fifth straight month of more than 200,000 new jobs.

Even some areas of significant weakness—namely long-term unemployment—are showing substantial signs of improvement. The percentage of the long-term unemployed, those out of work 27 weeks or longer, has decreased significantly. Indeed, the “persistently unemployed” now stands at 32.8%, down from 34.8% in May and 37% in February. While the persistently unemployed are not back to the 20% level we’ve seen in a more normal labor environment, it’s a big stride in the right direction.

Working Their Way Back
Further, the unemployment rate is now at 6.1%, which is well below the Fed’s former soft target of 6.5%. Some market participants and strategists believe the Fed will raise rates sooner than mid-2015 because of this jobs report. We think that the market is too liberal in its expectations on when the first rate hike will occur. But that’s because we think the Fed will have to react to other economic conditions such as rising inflation. Recall that the PCE price index—the inflation metric followed most closely by the Fed—is now at 1.8% annualized, which is nearing the 2% the Fed’s soft target.

What Lies Beneath

Keep in mind that there still remains room for improvement with the employment situation. The Fed will likely want to continue to support the jobs recovery and try to address these issues, provided that other factors, such as inflation, don’t come into play. Consider the following:

1
Wage growth, at 2% year-over-year, has been anemic. This is a very important metric for the Fed because of what it symbolizes about the slack in the job market. If we take the Fed at its word, then the June jobs report, despite its strengths, is unlikely to speed up the Fed’s decision to raise rates.
2
Labor force participation remains relatively low at 62.8%. This means there are likely many disaffected workers who have not tried to re-enter the job market.
3
The quality of the added jobs remains low. Many of the new jobs created are coming from lower-paying industries, such as retail. And full-time employment continues to elude many Americans. The number of full-time employees actually dropped in June while the number of part-time workers rose significantly. About 30% of people who took part-time jobs did so “involuntarily,” meaning they would prefer full-time work, according to the household survey.
If we take the Fed at its word, then the June jobs report, despite its strengths, is unlikely to speed up the Fed’s decision to raise rates.”
Earlier this year, the Fed changed its criteria for raising the federal funds rate from quantitative targets—6.5% unemployment, for example—to a mosaic of economic data. And for good reason: The FOMC recognized that while unemployment was improving, it did not tell the full story about the health of the job market or the economy in general.

Similarly, the latest jobs report, while impressive given the progress that has been made in employment, is unlikely to significantly impact the Fed’s decision on when to begin raising the fed funds rate. Instead, that decision will be based on a host of factors. However, we will look to Wednesday’s release of the FOMC minutes to reveal more insight into what the Fed is currently thinking.

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Past performance of the markets is no guarantee of future results. This is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. It is presented only to provide information on investment strategies and opportunities.


A Word About Risk
: Equities have tended to be volatile, involve risk to principal and, unlike bonds, do not offer a fixed rate of return. Foreign markets may be more volatile, less liquid, less transparent and subject to less oversight, and values may fluctuate with currency exchange rates; these risks may be greater in emerging markets.
 
The material contains the current opinions of the author, which are subject to change without notice. Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. References to specific securities and issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities. Forecasts and estimates have certain inherent limitations, and are not intended to be relied upon as advice or interpreted as a recommendation.

 
Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) is a measure of price changes in consumer goods and services. Personal consumption expenditures consist of the actual and imputed expenditures of households; the measure includes data pertaining to durables, non-durables and services. It is essentially a measure of goods and services targeted toward individuals and consumed by individuals.

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