Not only that, but the employment component of the ISM surged to its highest level since December 1983, and yet the manufacturing employment segment of the payroll survey fell 27,000 — the first decline this year and the sharpest falloff since last October. Furthermore, the manufacturing diffusion index slumped to a seven-month low of 47 from 53 — in other words, fewer than half of the industrial sector was adding to staff requirements last month. It begs the question as to what exactly the ISM is measuring.
The list of inconsistencies in the data didn’t stop there. The entire increase in private sector employment in August was in the service sector — mostly health and education, which says little about the cyclical state of the economy. Yet 90 minutes after the jobs number was released, we got the ISM non-manufacturing survey and it flashed a contraction in services employment to a seven-month low of 48.2 from 50.9 in July.
Just a tad confusing, but the newly found bullish view of the economy is sort of corroborating evidence.
The employment report did not detract from the view that the economy is losing steam. The fourth quarter of a recovery typically sees real GDP growth of over 6% at an annual rate, but in this post-bubble credit collapse, what we got this time was 1.6% at an annual rate in Q2.
Moreover, there is nothing in the data to suggest anything but a further slowing in Q3, and the only reason why there is no contraction this quarter is because it looks as though we are getting another lift from inventories — though now the buildup looks involuntary, which will cast a cloud on fourth-quarter GDP barring a sudden reversal in the declining trend in real final sales.
Private payrolls were +247,000 when the equity market peaked in April, it slowed to +107,000 by July and was +67,000 last month. What does that suggest about the trend? Ditto for goods-producing employment, which was +67,000 in April, subsequently softened to +37,000 by July, and in August was the grand total of zero.