Economy Watch: Employment Growth Remains Tepid

The U.S. economy created a meager 80,000 jobs during June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy created a meager 80,000 jobs during June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Most economists and other observers had been expecting such a figure (in fact, consensus forecast among economists had been about 90,000). The nation unemployment rate remained the same, at 8.2 percent.

On the other hand, on Thursday the Labor Department reported separately that for the week ending June 30, initial jobless claims were 374,000, down 14,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 388,000. The four-week moving average, which tends to be a more stable measurement, was 385,750, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 387,250. These figures were better than expected.

Automated Data Processing, whose reports are sometimes (often) at odds with the official employment numbers, reported on Thursday that the private sector employment was up by 176,000 positions in May. Most of those jobs, according to ADP, came from the services sector, which saw a monthly increase of 160,000 in May, up from 137,000 the month before.

U.S. bankruptcies down during first half

The American Bankruptcy Institute said on Thursday that both personal and commercial bankruptcies are trending down, based on data crunched by Epiq Systems Inc. All together there were 601,184 total U.S. noncommercial filings during the first half of 2012, representing a 13 percent drop from total of 691,902 for the first half of 2011. As for commercial bankruptcies, during the first half of this year, they were down 22 percent compared with the first half of 2011.

Other measurements of bankruptcy showed declines as well, the organization added. The average nationwide per capita bankruptcy-filing rate for the first six months of 2012 decreased to 4.08 (total filings per 1,000 per population) from the 4.13 rate for the first five months of the year. Also, the average total filings per day in June 2012 was 3,302, an 18 percent decrease from the 4,023 total daily filings in June 2011.

“We are on pace for perhaps the lowest total new bankruptcies since before the financial crisis in 2008,”  ABI executive director Samuel J. Gerdano noted in a press statement. “With sustained low interest rates and weak consumer spending, we expect bankruptcies to stay at relatively low levels through the end of 2012.”

ISM non-manufacturing index drops

On the heels of the Institute for Supply Management reporting earlier this week that its ISM manufacturing index saw a downtick to below 50, the organization reported on Thursday that the June ISM non-manufacturing index was at 52.1 percent, down from 53.7 percent in May. That’s still in expansion territory (above 50), but not as much.

The ISM’s new orders index decreased by 2.2 percentage points to 53.3 percent, but its employment index increased by 1.5 percentage points to 52.3 percent, indicating continued growth in service-sector employment, and at a faster rate. The prices index decreased 0.9 percentage point to 48.9 percent, indicating lower month-over-month prices for the second consecutive month.

Wall Street lost a little ground on Thursday, the day after the Independence Day holiday, presumably waiting to react (perhaps lemming-like) to the official employment numbers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 47.15 points, or 0.36 percent, while the S&P 500 was down 0.47 percent. The Nasdaq broke even for the day.