What Economists Are Saying Ahead of January’s U.S. Jobs Report

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. employers probably hired in January at a less robust pace than the prior month, though still at a rate that’s consistent with a solid labor market despite disruptions from the government shutdown and uncertainty about the trade war.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 165,000, according to the median of estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists before the Labor Department releases its monthly employment report Friday at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. Despite that being a record 100th month of uninterrupted gains, it would be fewer than December’s whopping 312,000 increase.

The economy added 2.64 million jobs last year, the most since 2015. That worked out to a monthly pace of about 220,000, which economists expect to moderate this year to an average pace of 160,000.

Estimates for payrolls in the January survey range from a loss of 40,000 to a 230,000 gain, with median forecasts for an unchanged jobless rate of 3.9 percent and a 3.2 percent annual rise in wages. Here’s what some economists expect, with projections listed from low to high:

NatWest Markets

  • 135,000 jobs, 3.9 percent unemployment, 3 percent annual wage growth
  • “A rise of this magnitude would put the December-January average advance at 224,000, close to where we suspect the underlying trend in payroll growth may be,” economists Michelle Girard and Kevin Cummins wrote in a report. “The unclear impact of the partial government shutdown will impede drawing clear conclusions about the underlying health of the labor market.”

ING Groep

  • 140,000 jobs, 3.8 percent unemployment rate, 3.2 percent annual wage growth
  • “Any slowdown in jobs growth this month is as much due to a lack of available workers as it is to a slowdown in hiring intentions after a bumper end to 2018,” Chief International Economist James Knightley wrote in a note. “With worker pay on the rise and employees feeling secure in their jobs, consumer spending will likely remain firm while adding to inflation pressures in the economy.”

Wells Fargo

  • 155,000 jobs, 3.8 percent unemployment, 3.1 percent annual wage growth
  • “We remain constructive on the U.S. labor market at the start of 2019, with expectations for additional, yet slowing, hiring gains, a reduced rate of joblessness and upward pressures on wage growth,” Senior Economist Sam Bullard wrote in a note. “That said, some forward-looking sentiment measures have turned lower, suggesting the labor market needs to be carefully monitored over the coming months.”

S&P Global

  • 180,000 jobs, 4 percent unemployment, 3.2 percent annual wage gain
  • “Employment indicators showed solid momentum heading into the new year, and despite recent events, we see little reason to expect a sharp decline in January,” U.S. deputy economist Satyam Panday said in a note. “We continue to think that as the year the underlying economic data will evolve to show growth above longer-run potential, which will prove solid enough for policy makers to raise rates twice this year.”

Bloomberg Economics

  • 185,000 jobs, 3.8 percent unemployment, 3.2 percent annual wage growth
  • “There is little reason to believe that the labor market is meaningfully downshifting,” wrote economists Carl Riccadonna, Yelena Shulyatyeva and Tim Mahedy. “As such, underlying themes of the January jobs report -- a sturdy payroll trend, continued reduction of labor slack and mounting wage pressures -- will start to sow the seeds of the type of economic environment that will ultimately lead the Fed to resume raising interest rates over the medium term.”

Citigroup

  • 210,000 jobs, 3.8 percent unemployment, 3.1 percent annual wage growth
  • “Despite being particularly attuned to signs of slowing in the U.S. economy, markets have a number of reasons to be relatively dismissive of a downside surprise in the jobs number,” economists Veronica Clark and Andrew Hollenhorst said in a note. “Weakness may be attributed to a retracement after strength in December or to effects from the government shutdown.”

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