Economy Watch: September Might Be Solid Month for Employment

So far it's been a good year for employment growth.

The federal government didn’t shut down with the coming of Oct. 1, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be able to do its important job on Friday of telling the country and the world about the condition of the U.S. employment market, according to various metrics. So far it’s been a good year for employment growth. For instance, over the 12 months ending in August, the economy created an average of 247,000 jobs per month, which is a steady, reasonably strong pace. Most industries are hiring. One of the few exceptions to that is the BLS category called “mining,” which includes any kind of extraction of minerals from the ground, such as oil and gas. Since reaching an employment peak in Dec. 2014, mining employment has dropped by 90,000.

Ahead of the BLS numbers, Automatic Data Processing released its private employment numbers on Wednesday, reckoning that private-sector employment increased by 200,000 jobs from August to September. Its report is derived from ADP’s payroll data, measuring the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally adjusted basis. Sometimes it predicts the official BLS numbers fairly closely, but just as often it does not. One reason is that public payrolls aren’t included. In recent quarters that kind of employment has been increasing, as state and local revenues increase.

In any case, ADP calculates that goods-producing employment (as opposed to services, and not strictly referring to manufacturing) rose by 12,000 jobs in September, off from 15,000 the previous month. The construction industry added 35,000 jobs in September, almost double the 18,000 gained in August. On the other hand, manufacturing dropped into negative territory by losing 15,000 jobs in September, its worst showing since December 2010. All this may be monthly noise, but it’s worth paying attention to, especially since the health of manufacturing affects logistics, which is the lifeblood of the industrial sector. The service sector, ADP reports, gained 188,000 jobs in September, which an important metric for the office sector.

Large businesses (companies with 1,000 employees or more) hired 106,000 workers during the month, noted ADP, up considerably from 40,000 in August and in fact the best level of hiring this year among that size company. That could mean that the largest companies, which tend to do business more internationally than smaller ones, aren’t all that worried about some of the economic tumult in other parts of the world—say, China—or the impact of the strong dollar. Small businesses (fewer than 50 workers) were more conservative in their hiring, added 37,000 positions in September, which was less than half of the August increase.