Importance of the Employment Report on Mortgage Rates

We often stress the importance of the monthly “jobs report” in trying to forecast the direction of mortgage rates. The objective of this post is to provide an explanation of why this report is so important.

Let’s first have a look at what information can be found in the monthly “jobs report”. Here is a summary:

Employment Report
In the US, the employment report, also known as the labor report, is regarded as the most important among all economic indicators. The report provides the first comprehensive look at the economy, covering nine economic categories. Here are the three main components of the report:

1. Payroll Employment: Measures the change in number of workers in a given month and measures the number of jobs in more than 500 industries (ex-¬farming) in all states and 255 metropolitan areas. The employment estimates are based on a survey of larger businesses and counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation’s business and government establishments. This release is the most closely watched indicator because of its timeliness, accuracy and its comprehensiveness. It is important to compare this figure to a monthly moving average (6 or 9 months) to capture a true perspective of the trend in labor market strength. Equally important are the frequent revisions for the prior months, which are often significant.  The bottom line for this measurement is that if the number of news jobs created or lost is better than what the market had expected mortgage rates typically rise and vice-versa.

2. Unemployment Rate: The percentage of the civilian labor force actively looking for employment but unable to find jobs. Although it is a highly proclaimed figure (due to simplicity of the number and its political implications), the unemployment rate gets relatively less importance in the markets because it is known to be a lagging indicator — it usually falls behind economic turns.  The bottom line for this measurement is that if the unemployment rate is better than what the market had expected it can cause mortgage rates to rise and vice-versa.

3. Average Hourly Earnings Growth: The growth rate between one month’s average hourly rate and another’s sheds light on wage growth and, hence, assesses the potential of wage-push inflation. The year-on-year rate is also important in capturing the longer-term trend.  The bottom line for this measurement is that if earnings growth is reported to be greater than what the market expected it can cause mortgage rates to move higher and vice-versa.

And why is it important?
The employment data give the most comprehensive report on how many people are looking for jobs, how many have them, what they’re getting paid and how many hours they are working. These numbers are the best way to gauge the current state and future direction of the economy. They also provide insight on wage trends and wage inflation. If wage inflation threatens, usually interest rates will rise, and bond and stock prices will fall. The Employment Report is scheduled for release at 8:30 (ET) on the first Friday of each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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