March 31, 2023

Economix Blog: Betting on Job Growth

The latest government figures detailing job growth in August — or lack thereof — won’t be out until Friday morning, but some economists are already speculating that the figures may be stronger than expected.

Making predictions is notoriously tricky, but better-than-expected data on Thursday from Automatic Data Processing, a private payroll firm, showed a private sector job gain for August of 201,000, much higher than the 145,000 private sector forecast from economists.

As a result, the chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley, Vincent Reinhart, raised his prediction for Friday’s government report to 125,000 total nonfarm payroll jobs from an earlier estimate of 100,000.

Other economists cautioned against reading too much into Thursday’s figures from A.D.P., which tracks private sector employment. Friday’s figures include both public and private jobs.

“The A.D.P. number is unexpectedly strong today, but it hasn’t been a terrific predictor of where the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures will be,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School and director of the school’s Center for Human Resources. A.D.P. figures have trended higher than government data in the past.

Another forecasting tool is the weekly report on first-time unemployment claims. Last week, they fell 12,000, to 365,000. The prediction had been for 370,000 new claims.

Ahead of Friday’s release, the consensus estimate among economists stood at 125,000 for the total number of new nonfarm jobs created in August.

Maury Harris, chief United States economist at UBS, said that if the number came in at 100,000 or lower and the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent, that would be a big disappointment for traders. But he said that anything higher than 150,000 would be a positive surprise.

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