Going into today’s September jobs report, the consensus speculation was that a print of fewer than 200,000 new jobs for the month had the potential to move the market because it would be weak enough to push the Federal Reserve into putting off its plans to begin taper off its $120 billion monthly bond purchases in November. On that theory, stocks would rally and bond yields would fall because the Fed would be likely to keep rates lower for longer.
But today, we got that potentially market-moving report–just 194,000 jobs created in September–and the financial markets yawned.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped all of 0.19% for the day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.03%. The NASDAQ Composite lost 0.51% and the small cap Russell 2000, these days the index most responsive to economic news, gave up 0.76%.
Over on the bond side, the yield on the 10-year Treasury continued its march higher, unruffled by the jobs news. At the close the yield was up another 3 basis points to 1.61%.
The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) moved lower to show less fear of volatility, closing at 18.86 today for a drop of 3.48%
Why the lack of a reaction to what had been billed as a market moving event?
Because Wall Street didn’t believe the headline jobs numbers. And with good reason.
The biggest drag on jobs gains for September was a drop of 123,000 in public-sector payrolls. Local education jobs fell by 144,000 and state education jobs fell by 17,000.
In other words the gains of 194,000 would have been almost twice as large without the drop of education jobs.
That argues that the private sector economy is indeed as strong as the ADP Research report indicated on Wednesday. And that therefore, the Federal Reserve, looking at the private economy, would conclude that there was no reason to change its plans to begin a November bond buying taper.
But the drop in education jobs is likely to have had an even bigger effect on the September jobs numbers, an effect that big Wall Street money managers with their staffs of economists would be quick to point out today.
The jobs number is seasonally adjusted. That means that government economists, looking at the historical job market patterns for a specific month, adjust the raw figures to try to take out season effects in order give a “true” picture of changes in the labor market.
Which doesn’t work particularly well when the labor market doesn’t follow the historical seasonal pattern.
“Most back-to-school hiring typically occurs in September. Hiring this September was lower than usual, resulting in a decline after seasonal adjustment,” the Labor Department wrote today. “Recent employment changes are challenging to interpret, as pandemic-related staffing fluctuations in public and private education have distorted the normal seasonal hiring and layoff patterns.”
In other words, the government’s statisticians said today, the seasonally adjusted September jobs numbers may be wrong. And if you take out that misleading seasonal adjustment–because, hey, this is another Pandemic year, then the September jobs number i, upon revision, going to look absolutely okay to the Fed.
So the Fed’s plans for a November taper to its bond buying remain on track and the market didn’t react to what is, in this context, non-news.