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Economists surprised at strong jobs report

Published: Friday, Nov. 8 2013 12:10 p.m. MST

Trader Michael Zicchinolfi on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. Stocks edged higher in early Friday trading as investors reacted to an unexpectedly strong October jobs report.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

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The October jobs report was released Friday showing 200,000 new jobs created, much stronger than the 120,000 many had expected. Some expressed skepticism because the data gathering was disrupted by the government shutdown. If the numbers hold up, the easy money policy of the Federal Reserve may be tapered sooner than later.

In addition to the strong jobs report, the new numbers also revised upward the jobs numbers for August and September. “At first glance I think you say, ‘shutdown, what shutdown?’” said Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief at Bankrate.com told Forbes, “We can only hope this pace of hiring continues to be seen in the fourth quarter, and we need to see a lot of ducks lined up in a row for that to happen.”

"The largest gains were in hospitality," Forbes reported, "which rose by 53,000 in October, and retail, which rose by 44,000. Hamrick points out that the gains are largely in these sectors calls into question the quality of the overall growth."

According to an ABC report, most economists expected far fewer jobs because of the government shutdown.

Stephen Bronars, senior economist with Welch Consulting, told ABC he expected the unemployment rate could continue to fall, "but largely for the wrong reason."

"As people continue to leave the labor force, rather than remain unemployed, the labor force participation rate is the lowest it's been in 35 years," Bronars said. "Some of this is due to the aging of the population, but participation should be increasing during a recovery as more people find work."

"The labor force participation rate, or the percentage of those in the labor force compared to people willing and able to work, fell by 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent, a 35-year low," ABC reported. The labor force participation rate measures the percentage of adults in the workforce, and is a key variable for measuring long-term structural changes in the economy.

In an another reflection of the paradoxes of modern economics, the New York Times noted the stock market opened higher on the news of the good jobs report, not because of it — but in spite of it.

"Wall Street moved higher on Friday," the Times wrote, "despite the release of a jobs report that raised the chance that the Federal Reserve will scale back its stimulus program before the end of the year."

Investors are apparently so fond of the easy money policies at the Fed that they are presumed to be skittish about economic growth that might tighten the spigot.

"The American payroll data were being studied for a hint on when the Federal Reserve would start pulling back, or 'tapering,' its stimulus," the Times reported. "Speculation that the Fed could scale back the program was triggered by quarterly data on Thursday that showed the world’s biggest economy grew faster than expected."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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