Fed's Bullard (2022 voter) says Fed should proceed with tapering despite the weak US jobs data, while he dismissed concerns the rebound in the labour market was faltering and said there is plenty of demand for workers. USD strength after comments
- Note Bullard is the first Fed official to speak following Friday's NFPs.
- Headline nonfarm payrolls disappointed expectations in August, printing 235k (exp. 750k); the unemployment rate fell by 0.2ppts, in line with the consensus, to 5.2%. Other measures of slack improved in the month, with the U6 rate of underemployment falling to 8.8% from 9.2%, the employment-population ratio, which is a metric that is closely watched Fed officials, rose to 58.5% from 58.4% (vs pre-pandemic 61.1%), although the participation rate, which the Fed also factors into its deliberations, was unchanged at 61.7%. The wages data saw average hourly earnings rising +0.6% M/M (exp. +0.3%), lifting the annual rate to 4.3% (from 4.1%); average workweek hours declined a little to 34.7hrs from 34.8hrs. Analysts noted that the lower than consensus headline was hinted at by several proxies, including the Homebase Survey, the ISM survey data (only manufacturing was available ahead of the NFP report), as well as the Conference Board's gauge of consumer confidence, which all gave the impression that Delta fears were contributing to labour market tightness. Ahead, Pantheon Macroeconomics is expecting further weakness in the September data too, and is also flagging concerns over the prospects of an October revival, given that labour market behaviour lags cases, and PM says cases are yet to peak. "Before Delta, we were looking for 1M-plus payroll gains in the fall, but that’s now going to be a real struggle, suggesting that Chair Powell will be in no hurry to be pushed into tapering while the labor market picture so uncertain," Pantheon writes, "we think the announcement comes in December, but the FOMC could easily be forced to wait until January." Meanwhile, many have been looking for evidence that the inflation upside in recent months was more persistent than the Fed was acknowledging, and were looking for this evidence within the wages metrics (the idea is that Americans would begin to demand higher compensation amid rising price pressures, which could feed into a loop of inflation becoming more persistent). While this month's data may allude to that theme, Pantheon warns that while the +0.6% M/M jump is startling, "it overstates the trend because the data are not mix-adjusted, so a month with no net job gains in the low-paid leisure and hospitality sector will see a bigger increase in AHE than a month with more even payroll growth." Even so, the consultancy notes that wage gains have averaged +5.8% Y/Y in the three-months to August vs the previous three months, and while it is high, PM argues that "this ignores the idea the faster productivity growth potentially raises the Fed’s tolerance for faster wage growth; ultimately, what matters is unit labour costs, which remain contained."