Employers added only 138,000 jobs last month, well below expectations for 175,000. Revisions to payrolls for the prior two months reduced employment gains by 66,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, its lowest level since 2001, but for the wrong reason: labor force participation fell by two-tenths of a percent. In other words, this is a considerably weaker-than-expected jobs report.
Given the noise in the monthly data, the question is: does this report signal a real downshift in job growth or is it a blip? Also, if we’re really at full employment, we should expect some slowing in payroll gains as employers bump up against supply constraints. And what does this all mean for the Federal Reserve when they meet in a few weeks to consider another rate hike that is firmly priced into the markets?
A good place to start is by smoothing out the monthly noise with the official JB smoother, which takes monthly averages over the past 3, 6, and 12 months. It shows a marked deceleration in job growth, from about 190,000 over the 12-month period to 121,000 over the past three months. While this is suggestive of a softening of the job market, it is also consistent with supply constraints.
– On the Economy, Jared Bernstein Blog