Hotter-than-expected jobs report shows mixed bag, markets dip

The headline figure for May’s jobs report may seem like a shock, but a closer read shows the labor market may still remain fairly tight

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The US economy added 272,000 jobs in May, much higher than analysts’ expectation of 190,000 additions. 

Unemployment rose to 4% in May — also higher than expected — marking its highest point since January 2022, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday showed. 

American equities initially dipped on the news before paring losses slightly. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes were trading 0.2% and 0.3% lower, respectively, at time of publication. 

Bitcoin and ether similarly dipped in the hour following the report’s release. Bitcoin recovered to trade around 0.3% higher to $71,500 at time of publication while ether lost around 0.8% and was hovering around $3,800, according to data from Coinbase. 

Although the headline figure of 272,000 may suggest a labor market too hot for the Federal Reserve to consider interest rate cuts in the fall, the report overall was still fairly hawkish, according to Michael Brown, senior research strategist at Pepperstone. 

Average hourly earnings increased 0.4% month over month in May and 4.1% year over year, suggesting that the labor market is actually relatively tight, Brown said. 

“The May employment report seems unlikely to be a game-changer in terms of the Fed policy outlook,” Brown said. “[Federal Open Market Committee] members continue, unsurprisingly, to place greater weight on the inflation side of the dual mandate, and are likely to reiterate next week that they are yet to obtain the ‘confidence’ being sought on a return towards the 2% target to enable the first rate cut to be delivered.”

Rate cut expectations for September remained largely unchanged Friday after the report dropped. Fed fund futures showed a 52% chance that the first rate cut will come early this fall, about the same odds markets had earlier this week, according to data from CME Group. 

The Fed’s June FOMC meeting will begin Tuesday and central bankers will reveal their interest rate decision on Wednesday. Committee members will also report projections next week, including their target interest rate for December 2024 and predicted inflation figures. 

Ahead of the interest rate decision, markets will also get the latest Consumer Price Index figures, scheduled for Wednesday morning. The inflation figures will be a “much more significant event,” according to Brown, as central bankers will be looking to see core CPI declining on an annual basis.


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