A simplistic, superficial take of today’s jobs report would conclude that the red hot jump in nonfarm payrolls indicates a “strong hiring market” (just ignore the jump in the unemployment rate). Nothing could be further from the truth.
Recall that back in August and September, we showed that a stark divergence had opened between the Household and Establishment surveys that comprise the monthly jobs report, and since March the former has been stagnant while the latter has been rising every single month. In addition to that, full-time jobs were plunging while part-time jobs were soaring.
Fast forward to today when the inconsistencies not only continue to grow, but in some cases have becoming downright grotesque.
Consider the following: the closely followed Establishment survey came in above expectations at 261K, above the 195K expected, and down modestly from last month’s upward revised 319K…
… numbers which confirm that at a time when virtually every major tech company is announcing mass layoffs…
… the BLS has a single, political agenda – not to spoil the political climate less than a week ahead of the payrolls by painting a “suboptimal” labor market picture.
Alas, there is only so much the Department of Labor can hide under the rug because when looking at the abovementioned gap between the Household and Establishment surveys which we have been pounding the table on since the summer, it just blew out by a whopping 589K, the most since June’s 608K, as a result of the 261K increase in the number of nonfarm payrolls (tracked by the Household survey) offset by a perplexing plunge in the number of people actually employed which tumbled by 328K (tracked by Establishment survey).
What is even more perplexing, is that despite the continued rise in nonfarm payrolls, the Household survey continues to telegraph growing weakness, and as of Oct 31, the gap that opened in March has since grown to a whopping 2.3 million “workers” which may or may not exist anywhere besides the spreadsheet model of some BLS political activist!
Showing this another way, there were 158.5 million employed workers in March 2022… and 158.6 million in October 2022 an increase of just 150K, during a period in which the number of payrolls (which as a reminder is the number the market follows) reportedly increased by 2.5 million!
As an aside, it appears this is not the first time the “apolitical” Bureau of Labor Statistics has pulled such a bizarre divergence off: it happened right before Obama’s reelection:
And then again: right before Hillary’s “100% guaranteed election (because one wouldn’t want a soft economy to adversely impact her re-election odds).
It gets better: digging in even deeper into the far more accurate and nuanced Household Survey, we find that the October plunge in Employment was the result of a massive collapse in full-time jobs offset by a modest increase in part-time jobs:
In fact, as shown below, since March, the US has lost 490K full-time employees offset by an almost identical gain of 492K part-time employees, while 126K workers were forced to get more than one job over the same period.
Finally, the cherry on top: the number of Unemployed workers – also tracked by the Household Survey – jumped by 306K, rising to 6.059 million, the highest since February!
So what’s going on here? The simple answer: there has been no change in the number of people actually employed, but due to deterioration in the economy, more people are losing their higher-paying, full-time jobs, and switching into much lower- paying, benefits-free part-time jobs, which also forces many to work more than one job, a rotation which picked up in earnest some time in March and which has only been captured by the Household survey. Meanwhile the Establishment survey plows on ahead with its politically-motivated approximations, seasonal adjustments, and other labor market goalseeking meant to make the Biden admin look good at least until after the midterms .
And since the Establishment survey is far slower to pick up on the nuances in employment composition, while the Household Survey has gone nowhere since March, the BLS data engineers have been busy goalseeking the Establishment Survey (with the occasional nudge from the White House especially with midterms looming) to make it appear as if the economy is growing strongly, when in reality all they are doing is applying the same erroneous seasonal adjustment factor that gave such a wrong perspective of the labor market in the aftermath of the covid pandemic (until it was all adjusted away a year ago). In other words, while the labor market is already cracking, it will take the BLS several months of veering away from reality before the government bureaucrats accept and admit what is truly taking place.
As we said back in August, “We expect that “realization” to take place just after the midterms, because the last thing the Biden administration can afford is admit the labor market is crashing in addition to the continued surge in inflation.” We still hold on to this prediction: expect big negative payroll prints as soon as December.