Tepid Jobs Numbers Might Affect QE3 Tapering

The less-than-inspiring jobs numbers did manage to inspire speculation about the winding down of the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program (QE3, to use journalist shorthand), but the Federal Open Market Committee won’t be meeting until later in the month.

The less-than-inspiring jobs numbers on Friday did manage to inspire speculation about the winding down of the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program (QE3, to use journalist shorthand), but the Federal Open Market Committee won’t be meeting until later in the month. Until then, speculation will continue that the 169,000 jobs that were created in August will cause the central bank to re-think its plans.

August isn’t the only month to consider, either. The change in total payroll employment for June was revised from an increase of 188,000 to 172,000, and the change for July was revised from up 162,000 to only 104,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 74,000 less than previously reported.

Some segments of the economy continue to hire at a fairly healthy rate, however. In August, job growth occurred in retail trade and healthcare, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment continued to trend up in food services and drinking places, professional and business services, and wholesale trade. Within manufacturing, employment in motor vehicles and parts rose by 19,000 in August, after declining by 10,000 in July.

The official U.S. employment rate edged down a tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent in August, but that was because more discouraged workers gave up looking for work. According to the BLS, labor force participation dropped last month to a 35-year low of 63.2 percent, compared with 63.4 percent in July.

On the other hand, the government’s broader U-6 unemployment rate has fallen continuously since last year. In August 2012, the U-6 stood at 14.6 percent; last month, it was 14 percent, and in August 2011, it was 13.7 percent. The U-6 measures not only people out of work but also people who are looking for work (which is the headline U-3 unemployment percentage), and it also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons,” as the BLS puts it.

Wall Street reacted tepidly to the employment news on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 14.98 points, or 0.1 percent. The S&P 500 was up a scant 0.01 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.11 percent.