Labor Report Shows Gains, The Market Impact, EU Troubles

Editor’s Note – The monthly jobs report is in and many are calling it an improvement while others are much more skeptical. Yes, there was a sizable gain in jobs, and the U1 rate stayed at 5.5%, but those are deceptive because of the numbers that underlie the broader picture.

Americans are finding jobs, but at a dismal rate when you look at history outside of recent recovery years prior to this one.  Too many people are out of the work force but those numbers are also slightly lower.unemployment Blues

Overall, it is still a lackluster recovery, and when one looks at the details and also includes the global picture, we are a long way away from a ship sailing right on its keel.

We caution optimism here because these better numbers are still quite small and other factors are not improving.

The 1st quarter GDP numbers were surprising as the economy retracted, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised and excused the “anomaly” and showed us a rosier picture to coincide with the more positive labor report.

But as usual, it is little solace to the millions not even in the labor force or those forced into part-time work – underemployment not even close to their potential.

BLS LogoWith this news, the stock markets were weary that a positive change may forestall the much discussed rise in interest rates, maybe even into the election season.

The markets closed down today and showed a loss for the week. (Read more below.) The markets like certainty, and they are not getting it from Janet Yellin as the reports emerge like today.

Here is a compilation of these numbers, and a reminder that things in Europe are more uncertain and now it appears that the Greeks are seeking advice from Russia’s Putin.

Global uncertainty, and a detached stock market make for highly uncertain times and somewhat implausible numbers as Zero Hedge points out below as well:

92,986,000 Non-participants in the workforce:

The month of May saw 92,986,000 people not participating in the workforce, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals. May’s total represented slight decline compared to last month’s record, which saw 93,194,000 people outside the workforce.

The BLS defines those not in the labor force as people ages 16 and older who are neither employed nor “made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.” The labor force participation rate came in at 62.9 percent, a slight uptick compared to April’s 62.8 percent. (Breitbart)

55,951,000 Women out of the workforce:

Mirroring the national numbers, the number of women outside the workforce experienced a slight decline in May, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April, the number of women not in the workforce hit a record 56,167,000. Come May, that number declined to 55,951,000.unemployment

With the number of women out of the labor force decreasing, so the number of women in the civilian workforce increased from 73,267,000 in April to 73,577,000 in May. The workforce participation rate among women also experienced a slight uptick to 56.8 percent. (Breitbart)

6,652,000 More Americans Working Part-Time, but not by choice:

Another 72,000 workers were working part time last month because their hours were cut or they couldn’t find full-time work. The total number of involuntary part-time workers jumped to 6,652,000 in May, up from 6,580,000 in April, but well below the 7,268,000 in May 2014, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to BLS, involuntary part-time workers are “persons who indicated that they would like to work full time but were working part time (1 to 34 hours) because of an economic reason, such as their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs.” (CNS News)

“The Job Numbers Literally Do Not Add Up” – Productivity:

Payroll Stats Become Even More Implausible – Since Q1 GDP was revised lower by almost 1% that meant estimates of productivity were going to be even more out of alignment than they were at the first release. Of course, in a less massaged environment productivity might have preserved some sense if there was less rigidity from the BLS on the employment side.

In other words, when “output” estimates were reduced (and they were, by more than GDP) it would make sense that everything would be revised downward in a more cohesive process. Instead, output was reduced significantly, by 1.4%, while total hours worked was marked down by all of 0.1%. As a result, productivity is revised from a nonsensical -1.9% to an even more skeptical -3.1%. (Zero Hedge)

Greek Crisis & Great Britain Threat to leave the EU:

Greece crisis live: PM tells parliament a debt deal can be done as stocks slide and Athens looks to Moscow. Greece will have to pay €1.6bn to the IMF and €1.5bn in pensions and wages by the end of the month. (Video from the UK Telegraph)

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Follow the almost hourly update read more here.

IMF director Christine Lagarde and Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis in happier days (AFP)
IMF director Christine Lagarde and Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis in happier days (AFP)

More from Zero Hedge on Greece:

Greek Banks On Verge Of Total Collapse: Bank Run Surges “Massively” As Depositors Yank €700 Million Today Alone – While the Greek government believes it may have won the battle, if not the war with Europe, the reality is that every additional day in which Athens does not have a funding backstop, be it the ECB (or the BRIC bank), is a day which brings the local banking system to total collapse.

As a reminder, Greek banks already depends on the ECB for some €80.7 billion in Emergency Liquidity Assistance which was about 60% of total deposits in the Greek financial system as of April 30. In other words, they are woefully insolvent and only the day to day generosity of the ECB prevents a roughly 40% forced “bail in” deposit haircut a la Cyprus. (Read more here.)

The British Issue from the AP:

The prospect that economic and diplomatic heavyweight Britain might leave the European Union within two years has pushed EU leaders to consider concessions to keep the country in the fold.Unemployment-2

EU founding members like Germany and France are moving outside their comfort zones, surprisingly receptive to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for change ahead of a referendum that will allow citizens to vote on whether to stay or go before the end of 2017.

With Europe’s top priority the very real risk that Greece might fall out of the euro single currency, Cameron has found a surprisingly open ear in many capitals of the world’s biggest trading bloc.(Read more at AP)

GDP drop in the first quarter of 2015:

June 25th in the Wall Street Journal:

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said in its third reading of the data Wednesday.

That was a sharp downward revision from the previous estimate that output fell at an annual rate of 1%. It also represented the fastest rate of decline since the recession, and was the largest drop recorded since the end of World War II that wasn’t part of a recession. (Read more at the Wall Street Journal)

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports today:

Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — decreased at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, real GDP increased 0.2 percent. With the second estimate for the first quarter, imports increased more and private inventory investment increased less than previously estimated (for more information, see “Revisions” on page 3).

The decrease in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. (Read more here at the BLS)

Stock Market:

U.S. Stocks Close Slightly Lower

Jobs report provides evidence to investors, traders that economy is lifting out of first-quarter slump

By DAN STRUMPF – Wall Street Journal

Stocks fell Friday as the strong May jobs report cemented expectations that the Fed will begin raising borrowing costs this fall, capping a volatile few days for stocks that leaves major benchmarks slightly lower for the week.

Traders and investors said the May jobs report offered evidence that the U.S. economy was pulling itself out of its first-quarter slump. While a firming economy is usually a good backdrop for stocks, investors say the hiring pickup keeps the Federal Reserve on track to start raising short-term interest rates as soon as September, potentially boosting borrowing costs for businesses and consumers alike.

Stocks spent the Friday session swinging between gains and losses before settling with a modest decline. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 56.12, or 0.3%, to 17849.46, bouncing back from an loss of as much as 83 points earlier in the session.

The S&P 500 index fell 3.01, or 0.1%, to 2092.83, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 9.33, or 0.2%, to 5068.46.May5.15DowClose

Stocks ended the week lower, after an early-week rally that petered out. The S&P 500 is down 0.7% for the week, while the Dow is down 0.9%.

Major stock benchmarks have pulled back in recent sessions from record highs reached just last month, weighed down by a cocktail of uneven economic data, murkiness over the Fed’s course of action and lofty valuations. The Dow is off 2.5% from its high reached May 19. The S&P 500 is down 1.8% from its May 21 high.

“For the economy, the bottom line is that [the jobs data] is a good number,” said Brent Schutte, senior investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management, which oversees $249 billion. But he added:

“To the extent that it brings people closer to believing that the Fed will raise rates in September, it will be near-term hit to the equity markets and the bond markets.”

The solid jobs report sparked sharper selloff in the bond market, lifting the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to an eight-month high of 2.402%, from 2.309% on Thursday. It is the highest closing level since Oct. 6. Bond prices fall as their yields rise.

For the week, the yield climbed by 0.305 percentage point, the biggest weekly rise since June 2013 when the bond market was rattled by the “taper tantrum,” or fears over reduced bond buying from the Fed.

The bond market has sold off since late April after a strong run-up in price over the past year. Many investors are recasting their portfolio as they believe the rise in bond yields reflect an improving economic and inflation outlook in the U.S. and the eurozone. (Read the rest here at the Wall Street Journal.)

Jordanian Instability

Editor’s Note – The Middle East is a house of cards with a base that is unsustainable as we see Syria in its civil war and about to fall. Yet, Jordan is likely next, having a land full of refugees, terror groups, and an infrastructure that is failing to keep pace with managing and governing.

EU concerned about potential instability in Jordan

EU Observer

King Abdullah II of Jordan

BY ANDREW RETTMAN

BRUSSELS – With all eyes on violence in Syria, some EU countries are becoming increasingly concerned about the risk of instability in neighbouring Jordan.

A senior EU diplomatic contact told this website on Wednesday (8 February) that the Arab Spring is taking a nasty turn inside one of the West’s main allies in the region. “The problem now is if things get worse and spill into Jordan,” the source said.

Ruled by King Abdullah II – better known abroad for his high society wife, Queen Rania – the Bedouin tribes which form the bulk of Jordanian society and its security forces have been grumbling about the royal clique’s monopoly on wealth and power for the past year.

In recent weeks, they stopped calling for reform and started calling for the king to step down.

“The mood has shifted quite sharply. There is a loss of support in the Bedouin bedrock which is turning quite antagonistic at this stage … I am not saying it’s on the brink of instability, but there has been a qualitative change,” Alastair Crooke, a former EU advisor on Middle East security affairs who now runs an NGO in Lebanon, told EUobserver.

“It’s another artificial state. It’s a very fragile country,” Ali Ben-David, a defence expert for Israel’s Channel 10 TV station, said.

With Jordan currently home to some 750,000 reguees from Iraq, including some Islamist radical groups, he added that if Jordan begins to unravel, it could create a security nightmare for Israel. “Tens of thousands of terrorists in Iraq lost their job and they are looking for their next target … If things begin spilling into Jordan, you could get both Al-Qaeda and the Iranian revolutionary guard camped on the other side of the Jordan river,” he said.

North of the border in Syria, some 2,500 EU citizens are believed to be still in the country amid escalating violence.

Around 90 percent are dual EU-Syrian citizens and are expected to see out the crisis no matter what happens.

France – a former colonial power in Syria – has the largest group among the remaining 10 percent. The French foreign ministry says that despite reports of mass-killings in Homs over the past weekend, the situation in the rest of the country has not significantly deteriorated.

“We haven’t started the launch code for an evacuation. We haven’t even closed our embassy. The only thing we’ve done is recalled our ambassador for consultations, which is a political gesture,” a French diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon – the most volatile country in the region in contemporary history – is looking the most stable for the time being.

A speech on Tuesday by Hassan Nasrallah – the chief of the main military power in Lebanon, Hezbollah – in which he said he does not take orders from Iran, might mean he will not start a war with Israel to take the heat off his allies in Damascus and Tehran.

The British foreign office says people should avoid all but essential travel to anywhere east of the mountains which bisect Lebanon from north to south, due to risk of kidnapping and Syrian military incursions.

For his part, Crooke, who lives in Beirut, said a traveller would have to go well off the beaten track into militant training camps in the foothills, Palestinian refugee camps in the south or smuggler villages which straddle the Lebanon-Syria border, to get into trouble.

“If you are using ordinary routes, the Bekaa valley [the eastern half of the country] is quite normal – people are crossing it every day to go to Damascus and back,” he said.